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As we move into the new normal it’s time to have a conversation about the change we want to see. Workingdads.co.uk will lead that conversation
So this is the new normal. It looks a lot like the old normal but with added inconvenience.
Foreign holidays, but you can’t be sure you won’t have to quarantine upon your return. Going to the shops, but taking a mask and preparing to queue. And returning to work. The government has flipped its advice from working from home where you can, to travelling to your place of work if you can. It feels a bit like the Pret-a-Manger lobby have got to them.
It’s not good enough. Particularly for working dads who have a once in a lifetime opportunity to remake working culture.
It’s not that long ago that the media was full of think pieces about what a post-Covid future will look like. Nobody said, ‘Basically the same but with added fag’. Because at that time we were still grappling with the pandemic, just surviving was enough for most of us to contend with.
Only now can we begin to come to terms with what’s happened this year.
I’m six weeks back from furlough now. And just starting to have conversations with friends that extend beyond, ‘Are you and your family OK?’. The trauma of being pitched into homeschooling is receding. We’re talking about our lockdown experiences. What changed. And what didn’t. What we want to keep from the experience going forward. And what we want to avoid should we have to go through it again.
We know that men have done more domestic work through lockdown. There’s good evidence to back that up, accompanied by findings that women have done even more. That’s interesting. But finger pointing only gets us so far. We need to have a conversation about why that was the case and how we change it, or whether we want to change it.
We want to lead that conversation. Make it as wide and as thought provoking as possible. Figure out the shared experiences of lockdown. And campaign for the changes that’ll make everyone’s life better.
Our mission at workingdads.co.uk has always been to help working dads achieve the work life balance they want, to persuade more men that it’s in everyone’s interest to embrace different ways of working. And we’ve a pedigree in sharing best practice, helping employers to learn from each other when it comes to family friendly policies and supporting dads. We’ve already tweaked our next set of awards to recognise the companies, HR teams and leaders who have adapted to the these difficult times the most effectively.
I’ve asked a range of leaders in the fatherhood field to share their experiences, their thoughts, and their hopes for the future.
Over the next few weeks I’ll publish views and proposals from social media influencers, leading corporations, authors, campaigning organisations, academics and maybe a few celebrities and comedians.
Already I can see themes emerging from the contributions I’ve received. Some surprising. For example it seems there’s value in the commute. Some men found it hard to switch from work to home mode without a stint in the car or on the train in between. Talk at the start of lockdown that the office environment was dead seems premature.
But flexibility is here to stay. The futurologists that picked flexibility as a theme of 2020 were right. But none of them foresaw just how!
Employees flexed like never before as lockdown bit. Employers will be expected to remember that and return the favour.
Good bosses stepped up through the pandemic, giving workers leeway to cope with homeschool and childcare. Employees will value that and pay it back in goodwill and loyalty. As the economy is reshaped by the pandemic top employers will stick with family friendly policies and diversity and inclusion programmes and reap the rewards.
Those that throw D&I overboard at the first sign of trouble will show themselves only superficially committed all along.
Many men are now looking back fondly at the start of lockdown. When they were forced off the hamster wheel. Some relished only having to worry about what went on within the four walls of their home. And they saw clearly that their work life balance had got out of whack. There’s no doubt firms ought to brace for many more flexible working requests over the weeks and months to come.
As the series grows and evolves more themes will emerge and I’ll report on them and update my thinking.
What happened this year has been huge, traumatic and, most importantly, tragic for too many people.
But the changes engendered will not be massive or immediate. And they will not be automatic.
It’s up to all of us to think about what happened and what we want to take away from it, how we want to shape a better future.
I urge you not just to read the contributions that’ll be on workingdads.co.uk in the coming weeks but engage with them. Contact me through the site by commenting below (or using the comments feature on any article on the site) or on social media with your thoughts – what you recognise in the essays, what you disagree with. Tell me what you want and how we can all work together to achieve it. If you’re an employer who wants to shout about what you’ve learned and how you supported the working dads in your firm I want to hear from you.
To make things better for working dads first we need to talk, and then we need to work.
I hope this series will give rise to some clear goals for working dads. Then we’ll start the toil of making them a reality.