Post-pandemic, there has been a massive shift in the ability of companies to support working dads. Lee Eldridge explains.
There is a greater emphasis on flexible working and working from home, allowing dads to take on more family responsibilities, such as the school run. For me, this is some of the best quality time I get to spend with my children.
Dad support groups created inside the company enable dads to meet other fathers and share challenges, wins, and ultimately, create connections with fellow parents. This hugely benefits men’s mental health by allowing them to share their problems with others.
In the construction industry, there has been an increase in suicide each year for the last five years. Men need to open up and stop this idea of the lone wolf.
Having a work-life balance is a huge challenge, especially for parents. I am not a fan of the narrative around work/life balance; work is part of life; therefore, we should be talking more about how we integrate work into our lives. There is a struggle for working dads to allocate time and energy to both roles in and out of the office.
Even though outstanding campaigns are underway to support working dads, societal expectations and stereotypes of a male still exist. Having interviewed over 70 working dads, there is a social norm that men should prioritise work over family and that their primary role is financial support. The thought process is “I need to put food on the table.” This drives a massive feeling of guilt in dads, as they want to provide for their families, but they also want to be there for them.
One retired working dad I spoke to talked about the guilt of losing his children’s early years: “My biggest fear was losing touch with my children’s early years and worrying about not playing a big enough part in them, not just in their upbringing, but also in their emotional development.”
This is a big worry for working dads. But we can start to change the social norms and conditioning that we have around work and fatherhood.
We all must understand and promote that emotional, mental and physical support is essential. This change in our thinking is by far the hardest one to implement. Many dads I have spoken to have this “it will be ok when” mentality – “it will be ok when I get the next promotion” or “the next role.” It won’t, however. We need to do the hard work and change our assumptions of a working dad.
To add to this point, there needs to be more role models that are actively promoting the “dad” element of working dads. I strongly advocate transformational leadership, in which idealised influence describes an individual who is an exemplary role model for people.
We all are busy, but there needs to be time for self-care. This is not being selfish. Companies need to allow their employees to take time to exercise, rest, and for hobbies. Burnout is an issue. If you burn out, you cannot work, and you cannot be a good dad.
Creating and establishing strong boundaries allows us to focus more and make better decisions. We are all leaders; by doing this, we can create a better work environment. The biggest performance-enhancing thing we can do is have focus.
As one working dad mentioned to me, “I am spinning six to seven plates daily, and it is impossible to understand which is the most important plate to focus on.”
When at work, be at work; when a dad, be a dad. Focus is a super skill.
When you have a problem, talk about it, and share it with colleagues, leaders or HR departments. By doing this, dads will gain support from their colleagues, helping them develop stronger relationships which will help them and the business perform (something that is not talked about).
As long as there is open communication with dads at work, things can change to help and improve the situation. Diversity and inclusion are vital in the workplace – everyone needs a voice!