Men and flexible working

As it is Father’s day this Sunday, we thought it was time we talked about some of the issues facing men in today’s world of work.

The world isn’t only changing for women. Just as women have discovered that their careers don’t have to end when they have children, so have men realised that they don’t necessarily need to sacrifice their fatherhood to bring home the bacon.

According to the largest ever study of the UK workforce conducted in 2017 by Timewise, 84% of the men surveyed work flexibly or wish to do so compared to 91% of women (flexibility defined as working part time, or working reduced hours, shift choices or the ability to work from home for some, or all, of the working week). As you can see the demand for both men and women is equally high.

These statistics will only be further reinforced by the evolution of the modern family. Around 10% of single parents are fathers, for instance, and many more share parental responsibility following a separation. More men now require as much flexibility in the workplace as mothers for childcare responsibilities.

And it’s not just parents who are changing working culture. The fact that 73% of Millennials (aged 18 to 34) who are working full time are now doing so flexibly, suggests a deep cultural shift. Increasingly, people view flexibility and work/life balance as an everyday norm – you shouldn’t need extra-curricular duties to get it.

Be upfront about your needs

For all this positivity, however, the reality is that men can still feel caught up in a more traditional approach – and more so than women. Many still do not feel comfortable approaching an employer about flexible working – and not surprisingly. Recent statistics cite that men are twice as likely to have requests for flexible work hours rejected, and many managers still frown upon men asking for flexible arrangements – seeing it as a sign of limited ambition that will harm promotion prospects. The Modern Families Index research found that 44% of the men surveyed had lied to their employers about family-related responsibilities that ‘get in the way’ of work.

We know men still enjoy many advantages in the workplace – and far more men than women still advance to leadership levels, enjoying the wealth and status that comes with that. But that doesn’t make it easy. Between tradition and change, the man’s role is also in flux. The transition to new ways of working and parenting will bring opportunities and challenges for men and women. But increasingly neither need conform to gender expectations.

Our advice

What would our advice be to all men and Fathers on Father’s Day who want to work flexibly?

1) Prioritise what you want and need from life.

2) Seek out and work for employers who reflect your values.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask to do things differently (you won’t be alone and as the calls for change grow louder, more employers are listening!).

4) Be upfront about your childcare responsibilities (if that is why you want to work flexibly) at interview stage, don’t leave it to chance.

5) If you are in a senior/management role, encourage flexible working conversations from both men and women and role model how flexibility can work in practice for the benefit of both employers and employees.

Enjoy time off this Father’s Day.

Flexible working, Working men & dads

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