fathers need flexible work options, too

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There are pros and cons about the Netflix decision to offer an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads. Even with the potential bumps, allowing new parents to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption is the way of the future.

One of the best things about the Netflix leave policy: it’s a maternity and a paternity policy. It’s a policy that supports both mothers and fathers, and the important roles they hold as parents.  Thankfully, today’s dads are becoming more and more involved as parents, meaning they need flexible workplace options just as much as moms. We’re no longer living in the world of Ward and June Cleaver in which dad gets home, grabs a cocktail, and puts his feet up while mom keeps the kids out of his way.

This new era of parenting requires that employers make flex work options a reality for men and women alike. Here’s why:

Involved fathers make a difference in kids’ lives

Flexible work options allow fathers to play an important role in their children’s lives–as infants, toddlers, youth and teens. A child’s interaction with a nurturing father has a huge impact on that child’s long-term success.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities. Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers.”

Fair policies inspire happier employees

As we aim to close the wage gap, we can also make it a priority to ensure our workforce–regardless of their gender–receives the same benefit options. Benefits for new parents and flexible work options are examples of gender-inclusive policies and practices that organizations can offer to demonstrate support for equality in the workplace. 

Work-life balance engages everyone

Today’s workforce–men and women alike–are seeking more balance. Whether it’s to care for kids, elderly parents, or an ailing pet, employees want flexible work options that allow them time for what matters most in their lives. In the past, women may have been more likely to seek part-time work, or flexible schedules, to balance their work-life needs. Now men are seeking those same opportunities. Being aware of work-life balance is an easy way for employers to engage and retain employees.

Stigmas about flexible work create conflict

“If you’re a parent, be vocal about the time you spend away from work with your children; this gives other parents in your organization permission to do the same,” Sheryl Sandberg suggests via her Lean In platform.

Right now, women run the risk of being penalized for the time they devote to their kids while they’re not at work. According to the Lean In website, “A recent study found that a job applicant with ‘PTA coordinator’ on her resume was 79% less likely to be recommended for hire compared to an equally qualified woman without children.”

If we’re going to remove the bias against mothers in the workplace, flexible work options need to be available to moms, dads, as well as employees without children.

Just like unlimited leave benefits for new parents will draw top talent to an organization, so will a fair, equitable, and active flexible work policy. Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to flexible work. Engage the fathers, mothers, and employees without kids, in a conversation about what they need when it comes to flexible work. Then do what you can to make it happen.

By liz sheffield
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