Han-Son Lee, founder of Daddilife, discusses the mental health challenges that many modern day dads experience in the workplace as a result of the stress of trying to balance work and family life
Mental health has quite rightly been one of the areas of most significant progress in the workplace in the last couple of years. But are we ignoring a large, yet still relatively hidden group?
Modern day parenting
There has been a generational shift when it comes to modern day fatherhood -with more and more modern day dads being actively involved in day to day parenting. When we researched over 2000 Millennial Fathers in partnership with Deloitte last year, we found that 87% were either mostly or entirely involved in the day-to-day parenting duties. This is a radical evolution from generations of fatherhood gone by.
However, the world of work has been much slower in adapting to the pace of change that is taking place in our family homes.
Dads at work
In our research – The Millennial Dad at Work – we found a huge range of tensions for modern day fathers in trying to balance the new drivers in their family life, with their world of work.
Some of the highlights include:
- 45% of dads say they sometimes or often experience tension from their employer in trying to balance work and their family life.
- The same number say they often encounter tension from their colleagues in trying to balance their parental duties with their work.
- 37% experienced tension regularly from their partners.
The impact on mental health
As a result of all of those tensions, we saw a dramatic impact on dads’ mental health. 37% said their mental health is negatively affected as a result of trying to balance work and parental responsibilities, and only 23% reported the impact on their mental health as ‘somewhat or very positive.’
How can we start to change this picture? At a time when male suicide is at its highest, we certainly need to refocus on the area of dads at work and mental health.
What needs to change to correct this?
Open up conversations at work, the right way
Men’s emotional language at work is different, and in general men struggle to be truly vulnerable at work. Some are unwilling to put across their needs for support or seek any help amid concerns that by so doing, it would lessen their authority, when in fact the opposite is often true. Resources that are tailored towards men are needed and should be framed around fatherhood and work life, rather than mental or physical health purely. We created a specific dad mentoring programme with The Parent Mentor and Avenir Consulting called Dad Connect in order to meet the changing needs of a modern generation of dads at work.
A new type of stimulus at work
Just like how the best dinosaur toys are known to enhance cognitive ability in children, the only ‘incentive’ discussed for dads at work is asking for a flexible schedule usually. That doesn’t necessarily deal with a day to day mental health issue though.
Borrowing successful techniques from other areas of work-life – it’s a well known workshop technique to bring things that delegates can touch and play with in order to open up different parts of the mind.
Are there opportunities to do more of this within the work environment with the right stimulus?
Put it on the agenda
It is the high time we end the notion of secret parenting. If parents can openly speak about their child-care responsibilities, colleagues will also adapt. A lot of fathers I talk to often feel they are being forced to show more concern for their work by minimising their commitment to their parenting. It’s this inflexibility that will cost firms valuable people, because employees will vote with their feet if employers can’t accommodate their differing schedules. We need to put a more open culture of communication right at the very top of our leadership agenda. When fathers are more open in recognising their parenting responsibilities publicly, the push for more changes and clearly communication around mental health will become even more acute.
While many firms seem to be recognising the discussion of mental health in the workplace, it is evident that there is a need to raise the conversation for modern day dads a lot more than is currently being done.
While we talk of greater flexibility and other such policies as being future focussed, there is a more pressing need for all organisation leaders, HR, and line managers to converge on how they tackle mental health for a group of people where the need may be more hidden from everyday life.
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