Smarter working for better work life balance

James Millar outlines why attitudes to dads need to change.



Having a paddle at the seaside is fine, but surfing is way more fun.

There’s a swell growing when it comes to the issue of men in the workplace, fathers in particular, and we have a choice right now about whether to watch and count the waves or get on board and ride it.

Swathes of polling data show that most men want a better work life balance that shifts from work to life. That doesn’t have to mean less work, just smarter work, for instance, flexible options that mean men can collect the kids from school and make up the hours later in the day or working from home and swapping an hour commute with the breakfast radio show for breakfast with the family.

Too many employers think job sharing means getting half an employee when in fact it means getting two for the price of one. And research suggests each one is more motivated and inspired than a full-time employee.

Look at the rewards, not the drawbacks

Yet we’re still a long way from this truly modern workforce, for two main reasons.

The first is that firms too often see the drawbacks rather than the rewards.

Yes, the job applicant that wants to work part time needs to be accommodated in a way that other candidates might not. But they’ll repay that little bit of effort in productivity and loyalty.

The second hurdle is that these sorts of ideas are too often seen as options meant for women.

It’s a sign of our deep-seated sexism that many companies regard a woman going part time or taking maternity leave as normal and acceptable, but the firm could not function if a man were to do the same.

Employers need to change their attitude. Men need to show them they are wrong.

Taking action will drive change

The more men that use shared parental leave, that ask for flexible working and who make a success of it (and the vast majority do) the less unusual it will seem, the more likely others will to be do the same.

And remember that employers are people too. In fact employers are invariably men. Management may be the key to embedding a new culture that is favourable to fathers.

If the bosses work flexibly, leave the office on time to collect their kids and crow about it then they’ll not only model an alternative for others to follow they’ll reap and understand the benefits and encourage those they manage to do the same.

Change is coming. More big firms are using parental leave policies to entice and retain the best workers. Government has implemented shared parental leave and the policy will only get more generous in the years to come.

Employers and employees have to choose where they stand in relation to that change. When making that decision it’s worth bearing in mind that surfers are way cooler than paddlers.

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