By Gareth Burns, Senior Software Scientist
Recently, Exploristics implemented a policy of a four-day working week for new fathers, and I’ll be the first employee to benefit. The ‘Free Fridays’ policy offers fathers Friday off with full pay for 10 weeks after paternity leave (which is currently 2 weeks with full pay).
In early January I’ll be becoming a father for the second time which is an exciting and joyous occasion for myself and family. However, for many potential fathers it can also be a time of anxiety with additional costs in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and added pressures. Having a child is a life changing event and time of reflection and consideration for me; what goals and aspirations do I have for growing family, how can I achieve this work-life balance.
Flexible working arrangements, in particular working from home, have undergone a revolution due to COVID-19 accelerating longer term trends which may have taken a decade to get to current levels into a few frenzied months. This rapid transition has caused some issues for organisations and the economy that are still being resolved. However, as a father this new flexibility is priceless to me, enabling a healthy work life balance. So, I’m keen to be part of the discussion on how we can ensure that these policies can work for both employee and employer.
Taking care of a new-born baby requires compassion, patience and the ability to go for long periods without sleep that would be considered torture by many. Being at home for an extra day a week at this crucial early stage to support caregiving will provide valuable family time at a pivotal moment. The strong bonds forged will last a lifetime. These will not only be between myself and our new baby but enable our son to transition from being an only child into a big brother – a massive change at such an early age that will need his father’s support.
The ‘Free Fridays’ on offer covers the period when lack of sleep is particularly acute. More time at home will allow me to provide more support to my family and help me and my partner take it in turns to recharge depleted energy reserves. This is important to both employee and business as sleep deprivation can drive down workplace performance as well as mental and physical health. Ensuring employees are well-supported and fit to work ensures that productivity is not impacted, and that people are likely to stay at a company longer-term. From a business perspective, high staff turnover and low productivity can have a significant cost to the bottom line. From a personal perspective, ensuring I can be there more to help with early caregiving offers my growing family the very best start.
Many families awaiting a new arrival will have considered the benefits of having dad at home more in the early weeks. However, they may worry about how this might affect how they balance the books and ensure that their income can still cover the new costs of nappies, clothes, childcare. I am fortunate that the extra time afforded by our new ‘Free Fridays’ policy will not come at a financial cost to my family. It provides full pay over its duration in addition to the two weeks paternity leave with full pay that I am also entitled to. This provides me and my family with peace of mind at this crucial time.
In addition to the benefits of the new policy, I have also considered the potential drawbacks. As the first father to benefit from it, some of the concerns I have are of perceived favouritism. Other people within the company may feel that they have coped without it, and so may question its necessity potentially damaging team dynamics. Another concern of mine has been how will this affect my career and potential progression path. Is there a perception that by taking this time off I’m not as dedicated to the company as non-fathers? Exploristics has a family friendly culture and ethos so I don’t think this will be the case, but it certainly might be an issue in other organisations.
Over the last year, the four-day working week has received many attention-grabbing headlines with some UK organisations trialling it out. Whether this will be feasible for businesses to implement long-term as a general policy is hard to tell. The aim of Exploristics ‘Free Fridays’ is to start with providing fathers with more flexibility and time when it matters most: when a new baby arrives. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position to be in a role that lends itself to this in a company that is pioneering more flexibility for fathers. As the first to avail of this new benefit here, I feel responsible to show that this policy is valuable to both families and businesses, ensuring that going forward all Exploristics fathers will be able to support their new families in this way.