Australian study into flexible working claims it needs to be formal for dads to feel the benefits to their mental health.
But parents who just try to fudge their flexible working can end up with poorer mental health. Dad in particular try to fit domestic tasks into their working day. That’s a phenomenon that’s been dubbed ‘parenting from work’ (as opposed to working from home). It may be partly because men are more likely to work full time and long hours, so they have to deal with family issues in work time.
The research among 4000 parents was carried out by LaTrobe University in Melbourne Australia. Poor mental health is estimated to cost the Australian economy $180 billion every year.
The academics found 62% of parents received or sent family-related phone calls or emails at work. 59% worked through breaks to leave work on time. 47% used their break time to attend to family matters or errands and 42% of parents performed household-related tasks at work. It all adds up to a picture many parents will recognise.
And the research found it’s not good for parents. Those that take an ‘ad-hoc’ approach to juggling work and family life had poorer mental health outcomes.
Women are more likely to compress their days. Mums often work through breaks to get their work done. Whereas men were found to behave differently. They are more likely to attend to family life from the workplace.
But those that had formal flexible working arrangements – both mums and dads – reported better mental health.
“Flexibility does support parents’ health and that’s beneficial to the employee and to the employer,” said lead researcher Dr Stacey Hokke. “We know people with high burnout are more likely to change jobs, be more absent from work and have lower job performance, so having that flexibility is one way to reduce those effects.”