The ultimate gift for Father's Day is not the tie, but the time. The time for dad to relax, grill some hamburgers and hotdogs, put his feet up and basically get a little spoiled on his special day. That's what all the cartoons will depict and what many Hallmark cards will convey. We all acknowledge it, but only one day a year! What's wrong with fathers -- and all men for that matter -- getting some of these benefits throughout the year as well?
Several years ago, WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) and WFD Consulting set out to research several themes regarding men and work-life balance in a research study titled Men and Work-Life Integration: A Global Study. The global research was focused on developed and emerging countries. The themes were:
Identity: Are men more work identified than women? Are women more personal/family identified than men?
- Work identity differed by gender in only two countries -- India and Germany -- and in those countries women scored higher than men. Similar results were found on the personal/family identity scale: Men and women did not differ on this scale except in India, where women once again scored higher than men. Bottom line: Men and women identify equally in work and personal/family.
Challenges and Solutions: What are the top work-life challenges men face and which work-life solutions do men use most frequently?
- Further analysis looked at the work-life challenges faced by both genders. Among 37 work-life challenge options, "financial stress" and "finding time to spend with family" topped the list for men and women alike. In terms of solutions, men and women around the world resoundingly sought workplace flexibility options to help them manage their work and personal/family challenges.
Organizational Culture: Do employees believe they are supported in using work-life benefits? Or do they believe there are repercussions for doing so?
- While the business case for work-life has been made, a large number of employees believe they have been punished for using work-life benefits or are fearful they would be
Leadership Attitudes: Has the business case for work-life been made to company leaders? What are leaders' attitudes toward employees who are committed to their personal/family lives? What are leaders' concerns when evaluating a flexible work request?
- One thing the research did show was that leadership still has a way to go in terms of feeling okay about giving men the same consideration as women when it comes to work-life balance issues even within the programs they currently offer in their organizations.
I bring this research up now, because we are beginning to hear more frequently -- and loudly -- men coming to the national stage with support, and sharing of men's issues and needs in terms of work-life effectiveness. I recently connected with Scott Behson, who blogs and writes articles on dad's and men's issues. In a recent article titled "5 Things You Should Know About Working Dads" for Time.com, he writes:
I'm no hero, no "superdad." I'm just one of the millions of dads who are putting in the work to provide for their families, to balance their careers with their spouses' and, most importantly, to be a loving, involved father. My work-family juggle is typical, but as a society, we don't think much about the challenges faced by working fathers.
On June 9th, the White House, as part of its series of events comprising the Working Families Summit, held a one-day conference specifically to discuss the issues facing working fathers where Scott was a panelist.
Dr. Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family wrote The New Dad - Research Study on Men and Fathers. This was a study focusing on the complex and changing role of fathers in the modern American family. In a radio interview with Stew Friedman, Research Professor with The Wharton School, Dr. Harrington talks about the substantive shift in the role men play in their families from financial provider to equal caretaker, and how organizations can support The New Dad. In another article on this book, I was struck by the number of men attending a lunch forum on this very topic.
So as the national voice continues, I ask how organizations and HR and Total Reward professionals, deal with the issue of equality when it comes to men and women's work-life effectiveness. I would suggest that it is simply not enough to offer the programs but to help encourage both genders to feel comfortable utilizing the programs. We ultimately have a role in creating an environment where employees are engaged and productive. Let's be the leaders! Now that's a Father's Day gift I can get my arms around!