Pandemic impact on working fathers
How Do You Do It has run programmes for working fathers since 2006 and one of the consistent themes we’ve seen is the conflict many new fathers feel between the fuller role they want to play at home and the way the flexible or remote work that would enable this has been viewed differently for men and women.
The expectation for fathers has tended to be that becoming a parent changes little in relation to how, where and when men are expected to work. For women, flexible work, including remote working has been more readily available but tended to come with a heavy price tag in terms of career progression. This divide in how parents are treated benefits no one; women are held back from achieving gender parity at work and men from participating fully in the lives of their children in the way that they consistently tell us they would like to.
The enforced conversion to home working caused by COVID-19 has (for people who are able to do their jobs from home) exposed just how many roles and indeed whole industries can successfully be undertaken on a far more flexible basis. We wanted to explore whether this increased remote working was translating into changes in how the dads we work with are feeling about their dual roles as fathers and employees.
The working fathers on our programmes are typically new dads (although not necessarily first-time dads), many of whom still have a partner at home on parental leave. Their jobs are office-based but they have all worked from home since the start of the pandemic. Our courses are tailored for each client, but we usually work with fathers over a series of sessions. At the start of each programme, our participants answer a questionnaire that seeks to understand how they are feeling about topics such as: how clear they are on their own version of success at home and work; how confident they are that they can achieve success at home and work; whether they feel they have a good support network at home and work and how supported they feel by their organisation. This same questionnaire is also completed at the end of the programme to measure the change over their time with us and the impact of the coaching.
Although individuals can have very different starting points, historically the overall participant scores at the start of our programmes have tended to be relatively consistent and reflect the challenges many working fathers feel in successfully integrating their roles at home and work.
Impact of working from home
Looking at the groups of working fathers who have started a programme with us since the pandemic (and therefore have been working from home) compared to before the pandemic, there are some clear shifts in the scores we are seeing in our start of course questionnaire.
Despite all the well-documented issues of blurred boundaries between work and home and the widespread anxiety caused by the pandemic, these groups of working fathers are showing more positive overall starting scores than our historic average. In particular, we are seeing an uplift in relation to questions around the following topics:
- Clarity about their own version of success at home
- Confidence about achieving success at home and work
- Feeling like they have good support networks at home and work
- Feeling that working parents are supported by their organisation
- Pride in working for their organisation
- Commitment to their organisation
What the fathers on our courses are saying?
In this short video, How Do You Do It Associate, Roger Coles talks about what we have been hearing from the working fathers on our recent programmes.
What we have seen is that the usual harsh divide in day-to-day experience between the person at home doing all the caring for a young child and the person physically away from the home in paid work has for the moment been eliminated for our groups. Although they are working, the dads on our programmes can be more involved with their child, share a greater amount of the unpaid work with their partner because they are physically present. In practical terms a dad being able to look after his baby from 7 am – 9 am (rather than commuting at that time) or have a 30-minute break during the day to take over the childcare has a big impact; both on the well-being of the parent who is on parental leave but also on the dad as they have more opportunity to bond with their child and increase their confidence as a parent.
Not only are we seeing that this is beneficial for increasing our participants’ feelings of confidence at support at home, but it has also translated to feeling like they have a good support network at work, despite the lack of physical contact with colleagues. We are also seeing an increase in the participants’ feelings of commitment to their organisation and their confidence in being able to successfully combine work and home life. The ability to work from home is often viewed in terms of the benefits to the employee; but what we are seeing is that for new dads, the ability to be more present with their partner and child once they are back at work yields benefits for their employer too. Committed employees who feel able to successfully combine their roles at work and home are more likely to perform better at work, stay with an employer and recommend that employer to other people.