Is your employer flexible?

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“As soon as my daughter was born I was thinking about- where do I want to be in 10 years or when she is 18. What home is she going to grow up in? Simple stuff like I want to stay healthy so I can continue to do fun stuff with her and keep up with her. It really forced me to think about who I am. It just forced me to think about what I wanted to be to her.”

Max Jennings – Co-Founder of Hoop

National Work Life Week

This week is National Work Life week an annual campaign run by Working Families to remind us to talk about our well being at work. There are 13 million working fathers and mothers in the UK. We are a massive and important part of the workforce but how many times have you been desperately worried about making your deadlines at work and maybe not been such a good parent at home? Long commutes, long hours, lack of flexibility - you struggle and your children miss out.

According to the 2017 Modern Families Index, some UK workplaces are failing to support fathers who want to take an active part in childcare.

  • Half of the fathers surveyed said their work life balance was increasingly a source of stress

And worryingly

  • 44% of fathers have lied or bent the truth to their employer about family-related responsibilities that “get in the way of work”

This doesn’t feel right. Something has to change.

Dad.Info had the opportunity to chat with Max Jennings, co-founder of Hoop a service which makes it easy to discover and book activities for your kids. We asked Max about his own experiences of returning to work after he became a Dad and how he handles flexibility as an employer.

“I came up with Hoop, with a few of my mates to solve a personal problem” Max reflects. “At the time my eldest daughter was 9 months and I had a break between one job and was looking to start something new, so I was looking after her during the day... I could easily find a great bar or restaurant or show but you want to spend time with your daughter the most special time you’ve got and I was literally looking at noticeboards in Sainsburys trying to find out what was happening for kids in my area”. Max has grown his business from a soft launch in North London to a UK wide audience of 1million +. Each week they list over 100000 events for parents to attend with their children and 20000 of those are completely free. Social isolation is a major problem for new parents and Max is pleased to be a small part of the solution. “Our focus on Hoop is to make it as easy as possible for parents to get out of the house and find what is going on locally and we have been really overwhelmed by how much is going on for families.”

All the cliches are true

Max is Father to two girls and considers himself to have been lucky. He had a good social network of other male friends all becoming Dads for the first time at the same time. Max treasured his time at home with his daughter and it was the abrupt return to work that caught him off guard. Max remembers: “you are starting a family and it is incredible. You are trying to make sense of the world again because all the cliches are true. It is a life changing moment but then you’re back at work so quickly. You’ve got this really important other person in your life who you want to look after and be there as much as you can for when you’ve got day-to-day tasks and pressures. Personally, I struggled with the reintroduction to the world of work after the birth of my first daughter.”

Flexible working

New Dads employed by Max are offered four weeks off after the birth of their child. Even more importantly though Max has built in flexibility across his business. In his opinion: “a lot of the time businesses are still locked into an archaic view of what a working week looks like. I think a huge amount of talent is lost where families can’t find the work that suits the lifestyle that their families need.” We asked Max if having flexible working practices ever felt like a problem for his business he was steadfast in his reply: “This is anecdotal, but a lot of companies create an environment where there is a lot of shame in leaving early or in arriving a little bit late and there is no reason for that. If you have a well-run company where people have clear goals and responsibilities, then you can create an environment which is flexible and problems shouldn’t occur.”

At Max’ company flexibility is for everyone, not just parents: “We have on our team people who are incredibly experienced but couldn’t find jobs with a more traditionally set up company. It is just crazy because there are so many talented people who are coming back from having a child and they might be unable to work five days a week but the current jobs market seems to prevent those people from re-entering work despite the fact these people are the most experienced.”

Precious time with children

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Image by nile from Pixabay

Ian Soars, Dad.Info’s CEO and a parent support worker sees first-hand how precious every minute is to families: “The evidence from parenting experts, psychologists and therapists shows that spending time with your child is key to building a better relationship. I think it is time that as a culture we began to value time with our children a great more than we do at present. Employers offering flexible working is a powerful statement of intent about how we prioritise family without questioning an employee’s commitment to their work.”

We were so pleased to hear Max talk about how he is supporting his employees at Hoop to be great at work and great with their families.

Keep up the good work!

If this has inspired you then you should know that you have the right to put in a flexible working request to your employer and if you would like to change your working hours you can access advice from the Working Families website here or find out about your Rights to Request Flexible Working or use their Sample Letter to Request Flexible Working.

If you have an employer that has really supported you with their family-friendly approach then let us know in our survey.

Just click this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DZ3PDTN

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Guest Tuesday, 10 December 2019

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