Can fathers have it all? What I mean is, can a man be successful in his job, working for an organisation, and also be an involved dad? Many men do work flexibly, often working from home on certain days and able to attend school assemblies and events without having to book half a day off in holiday. There’s give and take on both sides.
I interviewed some men recently for a research project, all fathers, all working for the same organisation – a global tech firm. These men were all working way in excess of their stipulated contract, putting in 55-60 hours a week, and more, and they were able to work flexibly to do the occasional school drop-off or pick-up. What they all said was that their working day simply extended in to “home” time. They had all the tools to work from home – smartphones and laptops, and so were still answering emails and taking calls well in to the evening. Where the working day may have finished at 6pm before, there’s now an expectation to respond to emails up to 8pm or 9pm, or do conference calls with the US at 10pm and work weekends at times to get ahead, or to travel on a Sunday night.
There’s a trade-off. There’s some flexibility to be around for the children at times but work can also encroach in to the home domain and it can become difficult to switch-off. Nearly all the men I interviewed for this project admitted to feelings of guilt about their work and home integration. There was guilt about telling the children to be quiet because “daddy’s on a call”, guilt about not being able to make it to school events, guilt about answering emails whilst on holiday.
Many organisations are getting rid of their office space and encouraging employees to either hot-desk or work from home. There’s clearly some upside here for companies by way of cost-savings. But I think they need to remember to keep investing in their employees, both with the physical infrastructure for working from home as well as some clear guidance about what’s expected when work and home fuse in the same physical space, otherwise problems may ensue.
With more women getting back in to the workplace after having children it’s a positive thing that a lot of men want to be involved and help with childcare, and hopefully take paternity leave or shared parental leave. This is a good thing, but there needs to be support from organisations to help men, and women, with the way that work has changed over the last 15-20 years, as there are signs of increasing work-induced stress and anxiety that arises from when work clashes with home, in both space and time.