For working dads, working from home means juggling between multiple responsibilities. Bonding with the baby. Coordinating with the partner. Completing projects. Attending meetings. In the past one year, all the working parents have adjusted and worked out a plan to be able to manage all of it. They have been able to embrace a new culture both at work and home. However, as they might have to return to office, they worry they will miss spending time with their children. As per an HBR report, 98% of them fear losing contact with their babies. Many are worried about the health and safety of their children and others are struggling with lack of child care support. The anxiety and worry can have an impact on employees’ wellness. How can employers help? Here are some ideas:
Ask, Empathize & Understand
To begin with, the business and HR leaders must start having conversations with their employees about returning to office and be aware of their opinion. Learn about their concerns and their expectations. For instance, if they can’t return because of childcare, you would be able to much in advance help frame a more effective plan for them. The time when you could make one mandatory working policy for all is now history. For the ‘now of work’ you must take a more hyper-personalized approach and have deeper conversations with your employees to frame the best transition plan for them.
Flexible work arrangements
Even if you need your employees to come back to work from the office, you should give them the option to work from home, a few days in a week. Even the hours at which they need to be working from the office can be more flexible. Especially for the functions that can be easily carried out from anywhere, the flexibility to work from home should be sustained. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how work and productivity are not dependent on ‘physical office space’. The flexibility will allow working dads to transition back to office without feeling anxious about losing touch with their kids and also help them support their partner in child care.
As the researchers from Boston College observed,“Offering fathers (and all employees) the time to attend to their personal needs does not offer employees permission to ‘slack off.’ What it does do is permit them to be more focused and energized when they are working.”
Making child care a business issue
Business leaders must understand how critical childcare is for their employees and their mental health. With so much emphasis being given on employee experience, it is now time to also address how well companies address the issues of child care and support their employees. Especially after the pandemic. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, aspects like child care facilities, sponsoring education, and providing childcare leaves were being discussed. But once offices reopens for some of the working dads, how it will change the in house or external creche facilities still remains uncertain. Especially, for single working parents, with no one to support at home, employers must provide safe options to help them take care of their kids, while they also focus on work. With most schools and day care centers shut down, working parents have to be more around their kids. However, if companies step up and help them identify or provide facilities, they can take some burden off their shoulders. Additionally, working parents also have a fear of carrying the virus back home to their children. This means that companies must not compromise on safety at all and ask employees to come to office, only if it is absolutely necessary. If they do ask them to return to work, then they must ensure a healthy and safe working environment, take all necessary precautions and provide childcare support.
While designing the EX strategy, talent leaders must not miss the cohort of working dads and also be mindful of their challenges and expectations. After all, what can be a better Father's Day gift for them!