Hi, my name's Phil and I work as a Senior Project Officer for the Greater London Authority and have done for 20 years. Yes, really!
I have a partner and a lovely daughter who is 7. We live in the Home Counties and due to being able to work flexibly, I am able to balance the commute to work in London with some work from home days and this suits me because I can be there to do the school run and take my daughter to after-school activities.
Returning to work after paternity leave was a wrench for me, but I was consoled in the fact that we had decided that my partner would be taking on the childcare role for our small family. We didn't have grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc who lived nearby who could help out with any immediate support so it made sense for us to do this. Being able to work flexibly in my role and have the support from the organisation meant that I could also be at home and working when I needed to, which was so much better than if I was chained to a desk 9-5, 5 days a week.
The great thing about being able to schedule my work from home days was that I saw much more of my family. If I wasn't able to do this I would have been leaving the house at 7 am and wouldn't return home until after 6:30 pm, usually when my daughter would be getting ready to go to bed......and that wasn't for me.
Being able to work flexibly became even more important to me two years ago when my partner started planning her return to work journey. She began looking around to find a job that would fit with school hours and holidays but felt dismayed as most vacancies were either very low pay or seriously compromised her talent and ability....something that I hear many Mums and Dads struggle with following a career gap. Luckily, she found an academic course, that will lead to a professional qualification and a job that will allow her to fit in with school hours, which she jumped at the chance of signing up to.
However, the course includes a full-time day at college, so I needed to be at home on this day for the school drop-off and pick up and to be able to be with my daughter after 15:30 when she gets home.
I immediately presented my case to the GLA and asked whether it would be possible to work from home every Wednesday, working the hours between 9:30 am - 2:30 pm so that I would be able to do the school run. The organisation was so positive about this that they wrote it into my contract. This means that there is never a conflict with my work at home day, as I am contracted to work a compressed day at home!
The thing is, we value productivity over presenteeism at the GLA. You’re trusted to get the work done no matter your location and you are treated, not as a number, but as an adult. The GLA had no resistance to flexible working and in fact, let me work from home at short notice on other days when required. For example, my partner was recently offered work invigilating at exams at her collage and I was also able to work at home on those days as well.
I think, one of the best things about flexible working is that because I have been 'allowed' this, it makes me a better employee to work with. I do a better job, I don't want to let people down and I take more pride in what I do. It's a big win for both me and the GLA and it's much less stressful to have the freedom to work in a way that suits your family life.
I have many friends that work this way too outside of the organisation, in fact, one of them works solely on his own terms and hours as long as his allocated chunk of work has been completed.
Flexible working isn't ‘genderised’, we have senior men and women at the GLA who are brilliant role models. They leave early to do the school run and have days at home when their children are unwell and we all still get our work done.
Yes, things do need to change for Men in the workplace and society as a whole in the grand scheme of things. For instance, I've had to wander round football stadiums with my daughter to find a suitable toilet for her to use where I could accompany her, but I have noticed that things are changing. For example, stores such as John Lewis now have smart gender-neutral toilets which shows that things are progressing.
I realise that not every organisation will have a flexible working policy as good as the GLA's but my advice to any other Dad in the same situation (or anyone in fact), who is looking to be that bit more flexible around home life would be to simply ask for it. Consider how it will impact you, your boss and your team before you present your case - for instance, think about simple things such as diverting your office line to your mobile when you're working at home.
Three words that summarise the work/life daily juggle that I see all the Dads are being asked in the #dadsflextoo campaign is: