By Gareth Burns, Senior Software Scientist
Becoming a father is a period of reflection and contemplation, which can seem overwhelming with many major life changes in a short space of time. The increased time commitment to caring responsibilities, lack of sleep and financial pressure don’t always align with career aspirations. Many individuals will explore flexible working to ensure they’re providing sufficient practical support to their family whilst enjoying a rewarding career. Whilst having our first child, I decided to change career for increased flexibility and recently having a second child was an ideal time to reflect on what worked previously and additional changes that may be required.
At Exploristics, I sit on an internal group of fathers who discuss issues specific to fathers in the workplace. We’ve engaged with Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to lead an online workshop on our experiences with adopting flexible working practices. I also regularly participate with the local charity The Parent Rooms who work with a diverse range of parents acting as a support circle.
Many fathers are seeking more flexible roles that allow them to take a greater share of childcare. Increased flexibility in working arrangements has been a slow long-term trend but uptake has accelerated due to Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, however these timelines made it difficult to assess or manage the implications.
Flexible working is a term that covers many different practices, including remote working, variable start and finish times, term-time working, condensed hours, and job shares to manage external commitments. Just as each family has their own niche needs and requirements, each organization will have their own business practices that will require a two-way dialogue and compromises on what works for both employee and employer.
The practical implementation of flexible working can present many logistical difficulties to organizations. Subsequent blogs will look at the practical implications from a management perspective, addressing difficulties as they arose and maximizing the benefits as a caring and responsible employer. This blog will focus on the benefits it’s brought to me not only as a father but also as an employee. These benefits include:
- Better work-life balance: I work a hybrid approach with 1 day in office and 4 days remote with varying start and finish times. This enables me to adjust my work schedules to align with nursery times, after school clubs and medical appointments, which can often change times at short notice! Remote working also reduces my daily commuting providing addition time to spend with my family.
- Improved career prospects for partners: My increased flexibility has allowed my wife and me to share responsibility for school picks ups, medical appointments and helping when the inevitable sick days occur. This has enabled my wife to pursue her own career and personal aspirations. Historically, many of these responsibilities were assumed to be the partners role and I’ve still experienced this perception, today. This often leads to women being disadvantaged during career interruption resulting in poorer progression opportunities and less pension.
- Improved family finances: The cost of childcare is headline news as families struggle with the cost-of-living crisis. Flexible working has allowed me to reduce our reliance on childcare, providing more time to spend with family but also reducing expensive bills.
- Improved physical and mental health: Becoming a father is a period of new and increased pressures, which can result in reduced time to focus on physical and mental health. This can lead to a downward spiral of worsening physical and mental health which make it seem harder to cope with new pressures. Having time to focus on family and being more in control of work aspirations mean I am less stressed, increasingly productive, and thus satisfied.
- Increased job satisfaction: Being empowered to manage my time to meet both family and work commitments I feel in control of my schedules. I don’t feel that success at work is to the detriment of family, and this allows me to have satisfaction in my work achievements, which may have otherwise been tarnished with guilt.
If you’re a father considering adopting more flexible working arrangements for a better work-life balance, I’d strongly advocate speaking to your employer as adjustments will be required by both sides. If you’re an employer considering adopting flexible working practices, our new blog will look at the benefits and concerns. Having adopted flexible working myself I feel happier, healthier, and more productive, which can only be a good thing for me, my family and my employer.
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