With Father’s Day around the corner, there’s no better time to reflect on how dads have navigated their parental and work responsibilities during the pandemic. We chatted to some of the hard-working fathers on the FM:Systems team to get the lowdown on some of the tips and tricks they picked up over the past 2.5 years. They also have some brilliant suggestions for other employers who want to better support dads as more people start returning to the office.

Let’s face it, raising kids is not an easy undertaking at the best of times. But COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, and the resultant economic pressures have put even more pressure on moms and dads. In fact, a new study has found that 66% of working parents meet the criteria for parental burnout – which occurs when chronic stress and exhaustion overwhelm a parent’s ability to function and cope.

From our perspective at FM:Systems, one of the biggest challenges over the past few years is trying to maintain a certain level of normalcy. Keeping the little ones entertained at home while trying to get some form of interaction with other children hasn’t been easy. And then there was redefining education at home, where it was all about online classes. Our dads admitted that maintaining a positive attitude in front of the kids has been challenging but they persevered!

 

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High pressure, lack of sleep

A father of a six-year-old admits that the second year of the pandemic was much harder for them. Everything was a novelty for the kid during the first year, and changes happened so quickly that time flew past. Year two on the other hand, was very much a case of the child eagerly wanting to have things back to normal. His fiancé was also pregnant during the second year. Leaving the house every day for work and the risk of getting sick or making a family member sick took on a new level of concern for this dad. But the most challenging stressor was social distancing and the inability to get help from the family as they took extra precautions to keep mom healthy during this time.

For him, the best thing any employer can do in a situation like this is to provide dads with flexibility. As a working parent, worrying about losing one’s job due to missed days or falling behind while tending to a child is frustrating. Good employers will empathize with dads and work with them to determine their schedules in order to balance work and family life.

Unfortunately, this dad wasn’t working for FM:Systems during his fiance’s pregnancy – or when she was still in the hospital or alone at home recovering from her C-section. At this point, it quickly became clear to him that his former employer wasn’t in support of providing working parents with greater flexibility. And that’s when he decided to leave, found FM:Systems, and the rest is history.

While most companies don’t offer paid leave after the birth of a child, a general sentiment by most working fathers is that paternity leave is a key benefit in workplace culture. In fact, a recent report revealed 73% of fathers felt that there was little workplace support for dads, and 69% said that they would switch jobs to spend more time with their kids. During a time when employers are struggling to attract and retain talent, a supportive workplace culture for parents –  fathers included – speaks volumes to employees and can help companies avoid losing or attracting great employees.

Adding to the pressure for this dad was that he also couldn’t take much time off after the pregnancy due to all the lost income from mom recovering. He feels that if his previous employer had allowed and encouraged him to take more time off, separate from his vacation days, he would’ve been more productive and appreciative. After all, nobody can make good decisions when stressed or suffering from a lack of sleep. For him, it comes down to employers needing to show respect and an understanding for working parents and their well-being. Many companies have lost the ability to practice empathy, a major cause for concern.

 

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A mixed bag of fun

One of our other fathers, who has four kids, can relate to the challenges of having children in the house all day while trying to work. Even when his three eldest children could return to school, the daycare for the youngest one had closed, meaning he had to watch him full-time for seven months while working. Being on calls and conducting virtual demonstrations were hard to manage, especially when “kiddo” couldn’t yet understand why dad was there but couldn’t play with him.

He says that despite the difficulties, the pandemic did bring about a better work/life balance. As hard as it was, he was always responsible for the driving responsibilities for the kids. But living 45 minutes from the office (more with traffic) meant spending two hours of work time in the car. This required him to make calls and do demos from roadsides and parking lots while writing notes on stray napkins.

Working from home during the pandemic massively helped this father find more time in his day. And now that all four kids are back in school, he can accomplish much more at work and home during the day. In fact, he has even been able to take up running during lunches and will participate in his first ultra-marathon next month!

 

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Taking care of yourself

The consensus from many of our fathers is that self-care is something that all parents must prioritize. The pandemic saw working parents spending time with their children around the clock without having the luxuries of babysitters, date nights, vacations, etc.

And when combined with constant stress and feeling anxious, dads started realizing that investing in mental health, self-care, and supporting work-from-home life was critical to their well-being.

Flexibility is a golden thread for all these fathers and something we at FM:Systems feel passionate about. Working hours have moved beyond the traditional 9-5. Instead, it’s identifying those hours where individuals work optimally. If employees hit their numbers and deliver good work, what difference does it make if they work 3-3 or 10-6 or whatever other permutation?

Some of our fathers also believe that other employers must rethink their assumptions about women being the primary caregivers. Our fathers split child-raising and household duties as we provide them with the flexibility to work according to their lifestyles.

While many businesses and society forget about a father’s role in raising children, we at FM:Systems would like to thank all our working dads! We appreciate you and wish you a wonderful Father’s Day.