Rob Taylor set up Dads in Business to help men share the challenges of combining fatherhood and work. In 2020 he led vital research into how working dads are coping
Rob Taylor runs his own business, has three children and set up Dads In Business for men like him facing a juggling act many recognise. He shares his experience of 2020 so far and the findings of some vital research.
So, how has lockdown been for you? No, really – how has it been? I see a lot of posts and articles spreading the love, impact and effectiveness of work from home, the dreaded new normal that we are confined to for the foreseeable future. I don’t know about you but lockdown has thrown up some real challenges for me, my work and my family.
The status quo has been tilted, the family rhythm altered, and the challenges to balance all those spinning plates soon re emerges in a heady inward argument with myself because this should be easy. After all, everyone said it was working just fine! Fact is, if I’m honest, I think what we are championing as working from home is the technological fact that work from home can function. The wifi, the zoom rooms, hangouts, teams and phone lines all work. We are living in such a connected world so therefore work from home is working by definition, simply because the technology functions.
But I got to thinking as we headed in to late summer 2020 about the impact on us dads who may well be used to heading out to work, to business or away from the family unit. We may be the ones who are out the house, missing school runs, pick ups, bed times or bath. As my desk re emerged from storage on the first week of lockdown it became – through lack of space in my house – the first thing I would see in a morning and the last thing I glanced at as I went to sleep. My home office this time round was simply my desk squeezed into our bedroom. Not ideal!
The outward perception of successes we hear about work from home and the positive impact on us all was something I wanted to challenge.
I knew that personally I was struggling to wholly focus on home, or wholly focus on work. One would never have mutual exclusivity from the other. And as it settled in to a plate spinning challenge, it became clear that although I was boxing off time to be ‘at work’ and then ‘at home’, I couldn’t help but feel those sneaky email check ins. Social posts and monitoring of work would creep in to what should be valuable family time. I was distracted.
But wait – working from home works just fine for everyone else so why is it just me that feels distracted? Is it just me who feels emotions all over the place from excitement to overwhelm to impatience and anger? I wanted to find out more, and with my Dads In Business hat on we set about doing it.
What did we want to know? Well, The Dad Gap report identifies that the general perception of men and dads in the workplace is a little different to the reality we uncover when the research delves a little below the surface.
Like many, I don’t have a dedicated office space at home. I am lucky in the respect I have a small desk space in the bedroom at home which afforded me the opportunity to build a small work station, but this wasn’t detached from my home life in any way. My desk wasn’t in a dedicated office, the wifi was sapped by the kids streaming Netflix and the fact it was in my bedroom meant that when I woke up in the night or as the kids woke me up early in the morning, my first waking view was one of my desk. Thus my first thought was one of work.
Myself and Angga Kara, my Dads In Business colleague who runs the brilliant Men Up North project, wanted to know how dads have been affected by Covid-19. The outward-facing ‘everything’s fine’ mentality versus the inward reality of what it’s really like to be a dad working from home whilst juggling the multiple roles we are responsible for. We developed our own Covid-19 response survey geared to ask open questions that guide real and open feedback.
The initial data set has returned some intriguing results. We’re now developing the research with the support of University Of Sheffield graduates to really explore the issues raised and to raise the profile in the workplace to identify commonality from our initial data set, wider trends and opportunities to support the dads network.
The ability to work from home is great, if managed correctly. It doesn’t take much scratching below the surface of the functioning technicalities of doing our jobs that we start to see some cracks.