The debate around flexible working continues to gain strength and more and more people are looking for employees that offer working from home or non-fixed working hours.
I’m sure we are all aware of the promoted benefits of this style or working; environmental, work-life balance, time saved, reduced congestion, focus on the task at hand. Most of us spend large amounts of time sat in front of a computer so in theory this could happen anywhere at any time. I like to have a balance of home and office working if circumstances allow.
I’ve been following campaigns such as Anna Whitehouse’s Flex-appeal (https://www.motherpukka.co.uk/flex/) for some time with great interest. There are some great stories and resources on her website. I love that Anna wants us all to get to the point where we don’t feel we need to make excuses for our behaviour. Flex-appeal should be for everyone who needs or wants it. This interests me is as a parent.
One thing that I have noticed is this is an area where women in the workplace have been left to fight most of the battles. It strikes me that if we want to achieve gender equality at work then we need to encourage everyone to work more flexibly. If we as fathers can do the school run, attend the nativity play, look after sick kids, be in for the plumber or what ever else needs taking care of at home then our partners can be at work. This gives them a fair chance at their careers and takes some of the pressure off from them having to be the one to always ask to leave early or work from home.
My second observation is about personal responsibility. My boss is a very reasonable guy, I work for a company that respect the fact we are people and recognise that we all have issues to deal with outside work. I’d like to think I’ve done a reasonable job of balancing work and home in the past, but I was forced to examine my own position again last week when my wife was ill (thankfully she’s fine now). I didn’t step up to help during working hours, we relied on friends and neighbours to help with the school run. Why? I had made a lot of commitments at work and really didn’t want to let anyone down, clients or colleagues. I am really enjoying my new role and want to make an impact at work. Am I really thinking that work was more important than home? Is this why I feel guilty I wasn’t there more last week?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do know that if I keep asking myself the questions and challenging my own decisions it helps to check and adjust my behaviour. Women have been calling out this balancing act for years now and men are late to the party.
As I create my work plan, I should allow a bit more flexibility. Rather than the adage of “Man Up” at work it’s time to “Man Down” a bit more when I’m needed at home. I’ve already blocked out some time over the next couple of weeks to make sure I can take responsibility.
As a foot note thanks to Joanne Waldie for sharing an excellent article, I was easily able to find some icon images for career women to accompany this article. I really struggled to find any that depicted fathers though.