The 12th September is National Flexible Working Day. Yet instead of it being a day of celebration, it really should be used as a chance to simply take stock of the vast change of mindset that’s still needed by many business owners.
The first thought I had when I found out about the day was – why do we need to mark a day of ‘flexible working’ when it should be something we embrace all year around?
I’ve written before about the need to look at new forms of flexibility at work for modern day dads, but where does the modern day attitude of flexibility need to start from? I think there are three crucial areas that need attention and re-focus.
1. Paternity Leave
Did you know that the curent Government policy of two weeks statutory pay, for those that are eligible for paternity leave, was only introduced in 2003!
Yes, 2003! The same year that Gary Jules was Christmas Number 1 with 'Mad World,' and the year after Girls Aloud had held the same title with 'Sounds of the underground' (admit it, you remember the song too...).
What did paternity leave look like before then? And how much have things changed in the last 16 years? Well, in short, they have changed a lot. The modern day generation of fathers want to embrace a new flexible culture of work right at the start of their child’s life, and that means revisiting paternity leave.
For the last few years in the DaddiLife community I’ve seen and heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of new dads who all say the same thing – ‘The two weeks of statutory paternity leave simply weren’t enough’ and it meant that when they returned to work they were physically present, but mentally in a totally different place.
These comments I should note, are very much best case scenarios because there are an increasing number of new fathers unable to take much, if any, paternity leave at all due to the way that their workplace is structured.
It’s encouraging therefore that the best employers are starting to revise their paternity policies. Deloitte last week announced 4 weeks of full paid leave for those that would be considered in Paternity, while other employers like O2 and Diageo have recently established options for more equal parental leave. It’s a space that those making decisions are starting to see more clearly, but how long will it be until the Government can re-look at two weeks of statutory leave and see it for what it really is – simply not enough.
2. Embracing the conversations with line managers
At what stage do we talk to our line managers about the needs to be a more present father at home?
Well, my answer is simple: As Soon As Possible.
Being an active, hands-on father, is something to take great pride in, and while the shape of many UK workforces still doesn’t have policies in place to formally recognize this increasing parental balance, it’s the one on one conversations with line managers where dads can affect change.
Perhaps it’s something you feel you can’t talk about?
More conversations with more parents who have been through some of the changes you want to make, and that can you lean on, will be helpful here.
Never underestimate the role of HR to drive change here. Difficult conversations at work are also sometimes the most important ones, and good HR teams are set up to help facilitate these conversations, not get in the way of them.
3. How we define work “success”
This one is something beyond just dads, but the age-old cliché of work being done only when managers can “see” employees in the same physical space has got to change.
The very best start ups and innovators have found ways to create important missions and values for their teams, and embedded them through a balance of physical and digital tools to help foster real growth in individuals and their teams.
When we can start to focus on the new KPI – the key Peopleindicators, we will get one step closer.
I feel that change is certainly in the air and there is more reason than ever before to believe that businesses are starting to get the message that, in order to attract and retain people, they have to be able to offer flexibility. I hope that by the time we reach National Flexible Working Day 2020, we will have more to celebrate.
About Han-Son Lee
Dad to Max, and Founder of DaddiLife - the UK's leading platform for Millennial Fathers with over 140,000 dads in the community.
Driving the change for new dads at work through our Dads at Work hub - https://www.daddilife.com/dads-at-work/