Dad Life

Yesterday new research was published by Deloitte about the millennial father (I am going to forgive the terrible title on the basis that the data is interesting). You can find the report here.

The research looks at the experience of working fathers. Here’s a few points of note from the data that stood out for me.

  • 1/3 of fathers surveyed reported having left a job for one which will allow them to spend more time with their children.
  • Another 1/3 of fathers are currently looking to do just the same.
  • Only 1 in 5 of those who requested flexible working had their request approved.
  • A 1/3 of fathers experience tension when needing time off to attend appointments or illnesses.
  • The tension felt by fathers doesn’t just come from the organisation itself (and its managers) but colleagues too.
  • 37% of fathers say that they have experienced negative impacts on their mental health as a result of trying to balance work and being a parent.
  • Guilt is a prominent emotion for fathers – guilt with line managers, partners, children, colleagues.

This headline findings within this report are loud and clear.

This is a talent issue.

This is a wellbeing issue.

This is a 2019 issue.

I’ve talked to fathers who have been subject to banter, inappropriate pressure and outright discrimination for wanting to work more flexibly, do the school run or take shared parental leave.  The not-so-subtle glance at the watch, the casual ‘part-timer’ comment.

This is Not Good Enough.

Few fathers really want the old model of fatherhood of the semi-absent dad, doing all the long hours and leaving the wife to go the school events. Dads want to be involved in their kids lives – shock.

But the old attitudes within organisations and too many individuals still exist.

Many employees now understand that there’s more to life than work. Now it’s time for employers who haven’t realised this too, to catch up – or lose your talent.

This really isn’t hard unless we make it so.

The report tells us what fathers want. More flexible working, better policies, improved manager attitudes and behaviours, more information on the leave and pay available to them.

Shall we just get on with it?

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Reflections on learning

I’m currently studying for a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. It’s been a fascinating course for many reasons, partly for the content but partly because of the delivery and assessment methods the course employs.

I wanted to share a little of my experiences here – and reflect on why it works so well for the learners. It is my full intention to borrow heavily from the approach for learning I’m currently designing for the workplace.

The overall approach is a flipped classroom. Reading, watching and consuming content done in your own time.  The face to face classroom element was about exploration, debate and discussion.  Learning together, not side by side.

For my most recent module, the assignments were submitted in blog form (my joy was unconfined). They were posted over on Medium, tagged to the course.  The reading list for this year’s students included the blogs written by the previous cohort.  Next year’s students will read ours.  We were encouraged to reference and build on the ideas of past learners.  Working out loud for the win.  I wrote about my own approach to open learning and MOOCs.  In the spirit of openness I’ve included the links if you’re interested (they haven’t been marked yet, just so you know).  I’m currently designing some new learning and I’m planning to include this approach as a final reflection piece for the learners. It brings together the benefits of personal reflection and sharing learning experiences and ideas with others.

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Much of the pre course reading was provided online via Medium. Instead of doing your pre-reading alone and bringing your notes along to the classroom learners were encouraged to reflect online first, open for all to see.  These ideas where then developed later, together.

There was encouragement to use social media tools to enhance learning. The course used a wide range of tech tools.  Padlet, Popplet, Camtasia, podcasts, video. We were also encouraged to undertake some MOOCs alongside the primary course content,  with specific recommendations made by the course tutors.  There were minimum requirements for the learning, but how much or how little you interacted with outside of these requirements was in the gift of the learner.  There was a great deal of signposting to content – but nothing compulsory.  There were deadlines, but much of the pace of learning was within your control too.

Recognising that most of the learners on the programme had busy day jobs, there was no formal requirement that you would make the face to face lectures. Everything was recorded and available online afterwards.  No fancy film crew required,  most of it was done by simple tech.

Finally, when it comes to assessment, there was plenty of freedom. You could choose to do the standard essay format, or pitch something you felt was more you.  For my first assessment I wrote the first three chapters of an e-book that I intend to complete when the course has finished, which will be made available to new colleagues as part of their induction.  For another module, I submitted a storyboard and a screencast – this is now about to become an in-house MOOC.  The aim was to centre your research and assignments within your own areas of interest and work at the organisation – and then most importantly, do something with it.  We’ve all been on a training course that uses hypothetical case studies that lack context, or established an action learning set that quickly died out.  Letting students direct and focus their learning to their specific interests has led to real action across the cohort – surely the aim of all learning programmes.

I’ve experienced plenty of learning over the years.  I’ve done full time study, part time study and distance learning. I’ve attended lectures, undertaken role plays, completed e-learning and written essays.  In terms of experience, this has been by far the best – and the one where I have most fully transferred the learning into practice. It’s improved the day job – and that should always be our aim.

Learning with the learner at the heart.

 

 

The great homeworking debate

Homeworking is in the news.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows a jump in the numbers of homeworkers over the last ten years. This isn’t all that surprising if we consider how much technology has moved on during the same time frame.

The BBC covered the story here.  It references concerns from Mind about the loneliness and isolation that can result from home or remote working.  The article does the typical thing of finding some people who think working from home is awesome, and some who find it a challenge for a range of reasons.

Here’s the thing.

Wellbeing is individual, personal, contextual, changeable.  We are indeed socially driven, and research from the New Economics Foundation has found that connecting with others is a driver of wellbeing.  But we are all different.  For every one of us that thrives in being around others and engaging, there will be someone else that craves quiet and time to themselves.  One size only fits one.

For me, my regular working from home is a benefit to my wellbeing. My long and stressful commute is challenging, so a day without it is a boost. My office days are usually frantic and coffee fuelled, food grabbed on the go. Working from home gives me time to focus and breathe.  Proximity to the biscuit tin aside, I usually also eat better, and fit in some exercise too.

But that’s me. This is an anecdote, not evidence from which we should draw any wider conclusions.

Instead of trying to decide whether homeworking is good or bad or something in between, instead we need to enable people to work in the way that works best for them; their productivity, their wellbeing, their efficiency and their personal commitments. For some that will be in an office, for others it’s their sofa.

Let’s just focus on adult to adult.

What and how the work is done, not where and when.

home working

Asking better questions

A little while ago I put a call out to HR folks via Twitter, asking them for their best open ended questions for employee surveys.

Now I am something of a cynic when it comes to surveys. I believe in the importance and power of employee voice, I’m just not convinced that a survey every year or two is the best way to get it – or the only way to get it at least.  Voice should be a dialogue.  Surveys have a part to play but organisations have a tendency to over rely on them – and then when it comes to taking action – seriously under deliver.

One of my key issues about surveys is the often used approach of including one or two open form questions at the end. Most organisations use very similar wording.  There will usually be something about the best bit about working at [insert name of organisation] and an opportunity to say something that you think ought to be changed or done differently.  Hardly ground breaking.

I’ve rarely found an organisation that seriously looks at the ‘things I’d change’ text and does anything meaningful with the data. I have however seen shrugs and eye rolls.  Suggestions often get dumped into one of two categories – stuff we know about and can’t / won’t change or stuff that we justify not changing because the employees got it wrong and we know better.

It’s my view that asking people two questions every couple of years with a limited character count ain’t employee voice.

I wanted to take the opportunity to ask some better questions the next time around. So I asked for help and my network delivered.  In the interests of sharing my learning, I’ve detailed them here.  In an example of shocking form I noted the question but not who suggested them and this is now lost forever in my twitter history.  Apologies to you if you gave me one of these cracking questions and I’ve  not give you credit.  Here’s the list:

  • What one thing should we do between now and the next survey to get your score to be significantly higher?
  • What is the one thing we should have asked you but didn’t?
  • What is the best piece of advice you have been given since you started here?  Or, what is the one piece of advice you would give someone starting here?
  • What gives you joy about working here? (I guess there’s a risk with this one that some people might say ‘going home)
  • What do we do that would help you be awesome at work?
  • How could we better support your career?
  • What is the biggest and smallest thing that we could do better?
  • What is the most challenging thing about working here?
  • What has happened in the last month to make you happy at work?
  • What is it about your job that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
  • What would you do if you were leading the organisation.

My personal favourites are the top two. Questions to get people thinking, not writing the same old stuff that they did last year that you took no notice of.  Of course, a good question and fresh perspectives can’t prevent organisation inaction – but just maybe they will provide you with a whole new set of ideas and challenges.  Just try and do something with the feedback…….

 

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Where’s your flexible working policy?

Almost all organisations will have a flexible working policy, even if all it’s doing is stating the minimum requirements of the legislation.

But where is it?

Where on your intranet, where in your managers guidance, your welcome booklet or your induction material?  Where in your recruitment material and processes?

Is it next to the maternity, adoption and parental leave policies?

If the answer is yes, what lies underneath that decision? And what message do you think it sends to the people that work for you?

Flexible working is for parents. And for everyone else.

This article I spotted last night hits all the nails on the head.

Flexible working is about inclusion, wellbeing, talent attraction and retention and engagement. It’s also about sustainability (just how many people do you have travelling unnecessarily into a city for a face to face meeting that they could do on Skype just because that’s how you’ve always done it?).  Flexible working is also key to addressing the gender pay gap.

The placement of your policy speaks to your intention – and your bias.

If your flexible working policy is sat next to your maternity leave policy, then I’d respectfully suggest you think about moving it to somewhere a little more inclusive instead.

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Top 10 commuters to avoid

It’s a funny old thing getting the train to work. It is, quite often, a fairly miserable experience. The unreliability, the cost, the dilapidated trains.  But most of all, the biggest challenge is often the fellow commuter.  Here is my list of the worst of the worst.

  1. The one who has their bag on the seat next to them and pretends they can’t see all the people standing up. Note to this commuter. This isn’t going to work. It really isn’t, no matter how much you harrumph or how slow you move your stuff. Be fair to others.
  2. The one who watches video on their phone without headphones.   This should be illegal. I tolerate quite a lot on the train, but this is the one thing that I will ask someone to stop. With, it must be said, varying levels of success.
  3. The manspreader. Nuff said.
  4. The one with the excessively loud ringtone. Most often accompanied with and excessively loud conversation when answered. I’M ON THE TRAIN.
  5. The one who breaches the GDPR. I am amazed what people do on the train. I have seen people assessing CVs, reading legal papers, sending emails about other people, all with personal data on display. I’ve also overhead people getting interview feedback.   I recently sat next to a legal type and read his court papers over his shoulder. It was fascinating stuff, but I bet the claimant wouldn’t have been all that happy about it.
  6. The ones that are drunk. Whether it’s the Christmas party season or that lone dude who is nailing can after can of Stella Artois, this is never the commuter to sit next to.
  7. The one who only gets the train occasionally and loudly reflects how they are glad that they don’t have to do this every day.  Lucky you.  And just for the record, we already know how awful it is.
  8. The one who won’t give way with their laptop. You are sitting at a table trying to do a little work on your laptop. Only the person opposite to you has their laptop out too and is taking all the space. Note to this commuter. If you are sitting opposite me, it’s going to get a shove.
  9. The one who talks to strangers. The person sitting next to them is a new potential friend!  AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
  10. The one who overshares. You know the one. They spend the entire journey on the phone to their mum or their BFF and you know everything about them. Including lots of stuff you never, ever wanted to know. Shhhhh.

These aren’t the only challenging commuters; there’s the ones who bring stinky food, the ones who take their shoes off, the snorers, and those who have dubious personal hygiene.

I hope if you are reading this, you aren’t one of these commuters. I don’t think I am.  Although I do crunch Werthers Originals all the way to the office.  Which means that somewhere, I’m probably on someone else’s list of people not to sit next to.

 

PS: commuting is a wellbeing issue. It is stressful, expensive and takes away from people’s time with their family.  Flexible working is a potential solution.  Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. 

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Hanging out the washing

I was chatting recently with some female colleagues, and we got to talking about flexible working. In particular, we talked about some of those negative perceptions of people who work flexibly, especially those who work from home for some of the time.  Flexism.

The idea that we are skiving. That somehow we are less committed. That it’s alright for some.  That we are probably watching Homes Under the Hammer.  We talked about how when we do work from home, we feel that we do deeper, more focused work.  We are more productive, without the constant disruptions of office life.  We have time to think, plan, create.

And then one of my colleagues said…. ‘well of course, I also do the washing’.

One by one we all agreed. One of the key benefits of working from home is getting your washing done.

A conversation of epic domesticity followed.  Get a load in first thing.  Get it on the line at lunch.  If you are organised, you can get two loads done and dry in a day.  The joy!  Each of us nodded along, completely understanding because we do it too.

Behind the humour, a serious point. This is just another small way in which domestic labour falling on women is taken for granted.  Another small way in which we are constantly balancing the work stuff and the life stuff.  Fitting it in. Because this is where the bulk of it still falls.  On women.

Back to the myths and the stereotypes of flexible working. All too often we see flexible working through the ‘family friendly’ lens.  It’s something that mums want, when their children are young.  It’s something that skivers want too.  We don’t think about it as being for wellbeing, inclusion, talent attraction and retention, engagement, a potential key to tackling the gender pay gap.

We got it wrong. Turns out, flexible working is for people who want to do the laundry.

wash