Why employers need to do more to support working fathers

In a society where equality is highly prized, working fathers understandably want to take more responsibility for looking after their children. However, this ambition is still being curtailed by the lack of opportunity for flexible working.

shutterstock_177030020The Modern Families Index 2016, by the Working Families charity details how this is an ongoing problem. Only 53% of fathers feel confident asking their employer about reducing their hours or working remotely, despite several years since the UK government changed the law to allow any worker to request flexible working.

The continuing rise in the cost of living means that around half of all couple households see both parents working full time (49%). Combined with less time to complete household chores, but still having to care for children, the result is a third of all working parents (29%) saying they felt burnt out most or all of the time, with the only option to take sick leave or holiday. This is an issue that does not just affect mothers as one in five fathers share the care of their children.

Being able to work flexibly allows fathers to better manage their family responsibilities and improve their work/life balance. This has a range of benefits for fathers and employers including improved productivity, morale and health.

So why aren’t more employers allowing or even encouraging flexible working? Given that potentially having a negative impact upon quality and performance is an allowable reason for rejecting an employee’s request for flexible working, this is likely to be a fear. Yet study after study has shown that quality and performance improve when employees are enabled to work anytime, anywhere. For example, research from Stanford University found that employees who were left to their own devices in their own space were 13.5% more productive than their office-based colleagues.

Those employers still reticent about trusting employees to be productive while working flexibly should look to trust technology. Only through tech can employers rest assured that their employees are able to and can produce the quality and quantity of work expected.

Technologies that enable effective collaboration are key to flexible working. Allowing employees to use their own fast, reliable and secure devices (BYOD) and apps (BYOA) they are familiar with will help them work more productively both remotely and on the go. However, such platforms need to easily and seamlessly integrate with each other. A good benchmark is to look to those platforms optimised specifically for mobile devices, as these are likely to work well across both current and, importantly, future technologies.

While conducive to flexible working, instigating BYOD and BYOA technology helps to improve efficiencies for office-based staff too. This means that by laying the groundwork for flexible working, employers are creating processes and infrastructures that will set them up well for the future. From there, businesses can then experiment with flexible working by asking staff to undertake assignments while travelling to or from meetings and appointments. This can then be progressed to allow staff to work for longer periods of time away from the office.

The signs are good for the future of fathers wishing to work flexibly with two thirds of younger dads taking up flexible working (69%), compared to a little more than half of those aged 36+. However, for this trend to continue and everyone to gain the benefits of improved work/life balance, businesses need to embrace the technology, processes and culture of flexible working.

By Stephen Duignan, vice president, Global Marketing at by LogMeIn