New dads are asking for flexible working arrangements in record numbers – but many are finding it hard to reconcile their dramatic lifestyle shifts with the demands of their jobs, according to research.
Published on 18 May by online fatherhood resource Daddilife, in partnership with auditor Deloitte, The Millennial Dad at Work  notes that 63% of working dads have requested a change in their overall working patterns since becoming fathers. Some 14% of millennial dads have requested to work from home between one and two days per week, but less than one in five (19%) of that segment have had such requests granted.
Almost 40% of dads have asked for a change to their working hours, but 44% of that group have been unsuccessful. Indeed, 45% of working fathers have regularly experienced tension from their employers when trying to balance work and family life: evidence of a growing disconnect between home and workplace. Some 39% have regularly experienced tension from colleagues over their newfound status as fathers.
Perhaps of greatest concern, one third of new dads have already changed jobs since becoming a father, with another third actively looking to change, suggesting that a lack of understanding in workplaces is forcing new fathers out of the door.
The report was based on a survey of 2,000 working dads between the ages of 24 and 40.
“Fathers are more involved in day-to-day parenting than ever before,” said Daddilife founder Hon-Son Lee, “yet many employers cling on to old-fashioned views of society where mum stays at home and takes on the childcare and dad works all hours to provide for the family. We know first hand from listening to working dads in the Daddilife community that there is a real gap in provision for new working fathers who need support to help them navigate the world of paternity leave, flexible working and dealing with employers who refuse to listen.”
Lee added: “What is clear from our research is that society is changing fast, and if organisations want to retain their best employees, government and business need to drive meaningful change for a new generation of fathers.”
What should leaders do to bring about the change that Lee calls for?
The Institute of Leadership & Management head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “As with so many initiatives that would seem to be ethically driven, it’s not until there’s a strong business case for their implementation that they’re taken more seriously. In showing that fathers are leaving jobs because of their employers’ inflexibility, Daddilife’s survey is a real wake-up call for industries that are suffering from talent shortages.
“As the report mentions, there may be a generational disconnect between younger fathers in the workforce and their older counterparts, who didn’t really have any sort of parental leave. The fathers who faced that reality may not fully appreciate the importance of supporting the younger dads in the workforce to be able to take that valuable time off.”
However, Cooper points out: “It’s not just fathers – or indeed mothers – who benefit from flexible working. Our research shows that it is popular with all age groups, regardless of whether employees have caring responsibilities. And in any case, those responsibilities across the piece are multifaceted in nature. For example, some employees will have adult children with special needs who they need to look after. Others, of course, will have ageing parents that require attention.
“But there are also employees who, quite reasonably, want to flex their working lives purely because they have interests that they want to pursue, so flexible working helps them to accommodate those paths.”
Cooper notes: “At a recent Pro Bono Economics lecture I attended, Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane talked about the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s impacts upon the third sector. What really came through from Haldane’s speech was how much demand there is in that sector for wellbeing to be used as a far more powerful and insightful societal measurement than GDP. If we’re going to move towards new gauges for our employees’ welfare, then flexible working that recognises people’s lives and activities outside work is going to be an absolutely vital contributor.”
She adds: “In the short term, we must create a climate of greater understanding and appreciation around the idea that if you are on flexible terms with a worker, and take on board the demands at large in that person’s life, they are going to repay you with improved engagement and increased loyalty. They’re not going to look for another job.
“That, then, is the challenge for those managers who are not supporting the whole employee, but are instead focusing only on the parts of the person that are essential for fulfilling work-related duties.”
For further insights on the themes raised in this blog, check out the Institute’s research report Flexible Working: Goodbye Nine to Five
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