Millennial Fatherhood at Work

Why we need to re-think work/life success for new dads

A comprehensive new DaddiLife study finds a new generation of dissatisfied dads at work - and hints at new solutions 

What is the modern dad good for? Pretty much anything that might pass for fatherhood it would seem. We have recently finished an extensive research programme with over 2000 working dads (aged 24-40) in the UK, and the results have been startling. 87% of dads are involved in the day-to-day parenting of their young children, which in practice can mean anything from changing nappies to sorting the night feed. Many dads are still the main wage earners in their households, but it seems we do a lot more than just buy the best car seat

Dad and daughter

Which is why more and more dads are looking for better work/life balance. As men become more involved fathers, tensions at work are beginning to rise. That’s particularly true in workplaces clinging to the increasingly dated notion that the best workers are the ones who spend most time in the office. 

This new tension was highlighted by our groundbreaking research. It found that nearly two thirds (63%) of dads have requested a change in working pattern since becoming a father. That might mean working compressed hours, or working from home for some days a week. 

More surprising still, a third of the dads that completed our survey had changed jobs since becoming a father in a bid to find better work/life balance. A further third were actively looking to change jobs. 

That’s a fascinating finding. All in all, two thirds of dads are prepared to move jobs to secure more flexible working conditions and more time with their young families. Employers really need to start taking note here. Fail to take into account the desire of a new generation of dads to be closer to their kids and more of your top talent will jump ship to companies that do. 

There are some fine examples of employers who are getting that message, but the DaddiLife research paints a more depressing picture. It found that, while 40% of the dads interviewed have requested a change in working hours, nearly half of them (44%) have been turned down. Given that, it’s not really surprising that only 56% of dads believe that fathers are treated equally to mothers in their workplaces. 

Companies at risk as dads look elsewhere 

As we’ve seen, one of the consequences of dads being thwarted in their quest for better work/life balance is backward looking companies losing experienced workers. Another is that tensions rise within workplaces. Specifically, 45% of working fathers regularly experience tension from their employer when trying to balance work and family life, while 37% regularly experience tension from colleagues and 45% from partners. 

This triple whammy of stress leads to another disturbing finding. Well over a third (37%) admit that their mental health has suffered as a result of trying to balance work and parental responsibilities. 

What is the solution here? There are no easy answers. In general terms it will take full societal recognition of the new role dads want to play in the lives of their children to inspire fundamental change. 

That is beginning to happen. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2015 (SPL lets mums and dads share 50 weeks of parental leave in any way they see fit) was a step in the right direction, but even here there is much work to be done. SPL’s low take up has been blamed on the financial penalty families suffer when dads take extended breaks from work, and on men’s fear that taking two, three or even six months off to care for newborn children will harm their careers. 

Parent-friendly policies are a win-win 

As for fatherhood more widely, more employers have to realise, that parent-friendly policies (and that means friendly to both parents) are a win-win for everyone concerned. Dads are more likely to stay with a company that offers flexible working. They may be more likely to join such an organisation in the first place. 

What’s more, happy dads are likely to be more productive at work, even if they spend less time there. The idea that the best workers are those that put company before family is a myth that can no longer be sustained.  

Some of this change will take years to bring about, but at least we have started the conversation.

 

This blog is written by the team at Daddilife.

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