Working mothers (rightfully) get a lot of press dedicated to their work-life balance struggles, but studies suggest that fathers are just as stressed about juggling their professional lives and family responsibilities. But despite the very real pressures on dads, there is often less emphasis at companies on building policies that allow them to stay happy and maximally productive both at home and at the office.
That needs to change, argues Brad Harrington, the lead author of a big, new study of working fathers' attitudes. UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which studies positive psychology, covered the research, boiling down the findings into a three-part late Father's Day gift employers can give to working dads.
The first recommendation for companies is perhaps the simplest and cheapest to implement--just show you care. For instance, health products company, Ascenta, focuses not just on fathers but listens to the work-life needs of all employees, including all parents.
"Generally employees will tell you what's important to them," Julie Lesperance, the director of human resources, says. "If you just take a minute--it doesn't cost anything--and if you're genuine, it goes a really, really long way. We've had baby showers for women and we've had baby showers for men. We've even had puppy showers for people who are adopting a pet."
To help father's reduce their stress, follow the example of Ascenta and demonstrate your company's intention to try to meet the work-life balance needs of all employees, no matter their life stage or definition of family, by being inclusive in your language and understanding of all.
Offer Paid Paternity Leave
This one might be more of a stretch for some cash strapped small businesses, but the write-up recommends companies who are serious about treating fathers fairly offer two to four weeks paid paternity leave at 66 percent of salary.
"According to the Boston College study, fully 89 percent of respondents ranked paid paternity leave as important, very important, or extremely important in choosing a job and 86 percent said they'd only take the time if it were paid," reports Greater Good. And just giving new dad time off doesn't cut it. Paying them cuts through the stigma that spending time with your newborn somehow amounts to slacking off or displaying a lack of commitment to your job, so that new fathers actually take advantage of the benefit.
Being paid is "almost required for [men] to take the leave... countries that offered lower-paying paternity leaves had a lower utilization than those that offered at least 66 percent of the father's salary. It was a much higher uptake of the policy if at least 66 percent of the salary was offered," according to Boston College Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Fraone.
Flexible work options are often thought of as a benefit for moms, but the freedom to modify the when and where of their work is a huge plus for dads as well. In the Boston College study 95 percent of respondents rated flexible work policies as important, including options like varying start and end times to accommodate kid-related activities, reduced work weeks and the ability to work from home.
Is implementing these suggestions a bit burdensome for employers? Of course, admits the Greater Good write-up, but putting in the effort can pay off in the long term. "Funding extended health benefits, for example, racks up expenses every quarter but likely saves money in the long run when illness-related absences and turnover fall. The act of investing in your male employees' families is comparable--but also pays dividends," concludes the article.
All the dad out there, what benefits or policies would you like to see more businesses offer?