Han Son Lee, Founder of Daddilife, discusses how parents need to prepare themselves now for what might be the future of flexible working for the foreseeable future
After an unprecedented last six months, many parents have started adapting to a new normal where, for many, working patterns and family patterns have changed considerably. Chief amongst those changes has been the numbers working from home for the foreseeable future. Some organisations, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, have made it clear that they have no plans to insist workers go back to the office until 2021 at the earliest. Have we finally reached a watershed so that, come September we will start to see the positive change in working patterns that are needed for so many working families?
More than any other time over the last 70 years, we are at a real crossroads, where employment decisions taken across many industries could have a major effect on the future of the family. So what are some of the key questions that employers and employees need to be asking now to help shape the future of work and make September 2020 a turning point for the better?
Parents have changed – many want something different
As some workplaces have started to see smaller cohorts of people go back to their offices, we need employers to be ready for the simple fact that many of the working parents coming back into offices are different people to those who left hurriedly at the start of lockdown.
Time for dads and their children, in particular, has been an unexpected blessing and perhaps the reset that many dads needed. During lockdown, we asked dads how parenting had changed for them since March. The results of the dads in lockdown survey showed that 76% of dads had become more involved in day to day parenting in lockdown, while 25% were actively considering more flexible working and 16% looking for a new job altogether post lockdown. Many dads have realised during lockdown that they want more flexibility and options for home working so that they can maintain a better work-life balance than they had before.
Homeworking is as productive as sitting in an office
Where lockdown has given us pause for reflection on work and family balance, it should have also created another thought – about where exactly we are at our best.
For all the testing and challenging times COVID has presented us with as a country, there have also been moments of real inspiration – of people coming together or finding new ways to get even better results. From a parental balance point of view, we’ve seen so many more dads get involved with homeschooling, but also balancing that out with new activities from toys to Tuff Trays – all for new ideas when it comes to their children’s learning and development.
In this new balance, we need employers’ eyes to be open to a new working formula that will extract the very best from their people. The office will be that place for some, but not all.
How we’re assessing real innovation, results and performance should not be done ‘the way it’s always been done around here’ anymore.
Can flexible working become a reality for those that want it?
There has never been a better time to push for change. Those working parents – and that includes fathers – who have found that homeworking works well for them and provides the work/life balance they want, should take this opportunity as we come out of lockdown to create a mix of office and home working that they are happy with.
The reports from many parents are that they enjoyed being able to be more present for their family over lockdown despite the pressures of homeschooling. Many employers are now more open to change than ever before. Employees should take this opportunity to find the working pattern that best suits them and find a new reality that suits them.
However, as with all silver linings, there is always a potential downside. With news that school bubbles are still going to be in effect in some form come September, the pressures that faced working parents won’t magically all go away in September. While it may not be as intense, any threat of a second wave or prolonged use of bubbles and other forms of social distancing will have a severe and significant impact on working parents time, productivity, and above all -their mental health.
It’s vital that employers are as in tune with that as their working parent populations, otherwise, we will see September be the start of another house of cards ready to fall, rather than new foundations from which to build the future of work from.
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