Dads at work – It’s time to ally properly

Han-Son Lee from Daddilife writes about how dads can push forward the boundaries at work and create the conditions that allow modern families to thrive.

man smiling and working on laptop


I recently had the pleasure of being part of a roundtable* with the team and a group of experts across the DEI world where we discussed how far (or not) progress had been made when it came to families and the changes needed at work. As someone who has been working on changing cultures at work for dads for the last five years, it amazed me just how long the others in the room had been working on the same goals for. In short, for many decades!

So where are we when it comes to dads at work, and why is now the time to find a new way ally like never before?

Redefining fatherhood

We’ve moved a long way from the role of fathers at home being purely that of a breadwinner, prioritising work hours over family time. This is an increasingly outdated model for family lives, and we’ve seen how in recent years more and more dads are looking at flexible working options to break free from the restrictive ‘tradition’ of fathers at work, and instead actively participate in their children’s lives.

The shape of that flexibility means that whether it’s attending school plays, participating in appointments, or simply being there for bath time and bedtime stories, flexible schedules create opportunities for stronger bonds to form. In fact, there’s an increasing body of Fatherhood Studies that have shown how involved fathers positively impact their children’s emotional, social, and cognitive development.

Benefits beyond the crib: A happier, healthier dad

The impact of flexible working extends far beyond just fatherhood. Dads who have more control over their schedules report feeling less stressed and experience a better work-life balance. This translates to improved mental and physical health. Reduced stress allows for better focus and productivity at work, leading to a win-win situation for both employee and employer. Additionally, flexible working arrangements can free up time for dads to pursue healthy habits, further contributing to their well-being.

We also need to acknowledge the even bigger win, and the wider ripple effect. When dads are actively involved in childcare and household duties, the burden on their partner eases. This fosters a more equitable partnership and reduces parental burnout. By normalising active fatherhood, we challenge outdated gender stereotypes, creating a more positive and inclusive environment for all parents, regardless of gender.

Furthermore, flexible work arrangements contribute to closing the gender pay gap by creating more opportunity for mothers to stay in the workforce and pursue career advancement opportunities just as much as dads.

So how do we get there faster?

From allyship to embracing flexibility

It’s alarming that, despite various studies showing the improved productivity benefits of working from home, there has been a conscious push to get people ‘back into the office’ as if Covid never happened. The key to take the next level of progress is to ally together to cultivate a true working parent culture. Here’s three things I’d love to see more of:

Recognise the collective power of working parents: Circa 72% of the UK’s economy is made up of parents and carers. That is a HUGE group, and one we often don’t think about in terms of size and scale. The business case for working parents and change writes itself, but needs far more awareness.

Bring that identity to work: While it’s great that we’re seeing more visible role modelling of modern-day fatherhood in society, and more and more dads wearing their dad baby carriers proudly, men themselves don’t often bring that same consciousness to work. A lot of that barrier is cultural, but dads do need to start speaking up more about the types of work that really work for them and their families.

Conversations with partners: I still remember the research project we did with on the conversations had with partners around Shared Parental Leave when it was first launched, and the surprising lack of conversations between partners. So much of the change needed is about partners having those conversations first at home, without assumptions, but with clarity. This is one area of huge change that is still needed.

Moving forward: A future of flexibility

The desire for change is not just about convenience, it’s about creating a work-life balance that allows modern dads to be the fathers they want to be, and modern-day families to thrive. As societal attitudes towards fatherhood evolve, forward-thinking companies will recognise the advantages of offering the policies, practices and culture that matters. This not only benefits dads and their families, but also creates a more engaged and productive workforce.

This isn’t going to be a perk but a necessity for modern dads.

*Han Son-Lee is founder of Daddilife, the parenting site for dads.

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