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We released two key bits of work this week and the response shows change is coming for working dads
It’s been a big week at workingdads.co.uk.
And, if I may say so, one to be proud of.
First we published the results of our annual survey. In one sense they didn’t make for terribly pleasing reading. Men are feeling the pressure of juggling work and home life. Flexible working – in whatever guise suits the individual – looks like the valve that could help regulate that pressure for many. Yet too many men are being turned down.
The main reason seems to be because it’s just not the done thing. Too many bosses don’t understand the work life conundrum, or don’t care about how it affects their employees. (On the workingmums.co.uk side the number of responses from women saying they’d had a flexible working request refused because if one person did it ‘everyone would want it’ was staggering. That reason is both irrelevant, and probably illegal.)
I wrote a piece for The Daily Telegraph previewing the survey results. My positive spin was that now dads are experience the same tribulations women have grown used to maybe we’ll finally see some action.
And that attitude has been borne out. Because the survey results have received widespread coverage in both the industry press and among a more general readership. It may be unfair but it’s true that a story about men travels further than the same story when it applies to women.
That feels wrong. But it’s actually a reason for optimism.
And my optimism was backed up by the publication of our White Paper on supporting dads at work.
Sitting at the round table event a few weeks ago that spawned the White Paper it was heartening beyond belief to hear working dads talk about their experiences. Again, many had less than ideal stories to share.
The man printing off a handover note in the office at midnight as his wife was in labour was a particular lowlight. But they were using those memories to fuel a fire for change, to make sure it’s better for others.
And it wasn’t just dads round the table. We were joined by top HR professionals from blue chip companies who wanted to hear about what works and what doesn’t. They want to change.
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Perhaps it reflects badly on me that I was taken aback by big building firms’ representatives desire to pick up best practice because the people that work in their industry are crying out for new ways of working. (When you think about it actually construction is incredibly flexible already – bricklaying in the pouring rain doesn’t really work for example).
I was reminded of something Mother Pukka Anna Whitehouse said at the Flexpo event a fortnight ago: that many firms these days want to be flexible, if you ask for flexible working you might be surprised at how willing your employers are to entertain the idea.
Now, that sentiment may appear to clash with our findings about the proportion of men having their flexible working application binned. But there was another element to Mother Pukka’s advice: go in prepared. Present your bosses with a fully worked out plan that recognises the practicalities for you, your colleagues and your employer and the way may be smoothed.
So we’ve released two big pieces of work this week. And they both point in the same direction. There is much work to do when it comes to dads in the workplace. But the routes to a better destination are being mapped out and there’s the will and interest and determination to get there.