All in a day’s work: How fathers can balance family and work
For many employees, the past few years have been characterised by anxiety and stress as they grapple with the uncertainty and disruption the pandemic brought.
In response, organisations are placing a greater emphasis than ever on the mental health and wellbeing of their employees by recognising the role family can play as a key support pillar.
Norman Tan, Group Head, Volunteer Resource & Governance, Centre for Fathering (CFF), told HRM Asia, “Family-friendly policies are critical because they provide working parents with the support and flexibility to reconcile family responsibilities and work demands so they can do the most important job of all, which is raising happy and healthy children and giving them the best head start in life.”
Founded in 2000, CFF is a non-profit organisation that promotes active and involved fathering and address issues caused by fatherlessness in Singapore and aims to empower more fathers to be better role models for their children.
Tan continued, “Children whose fathers are involved do better in nearly every aspect of their growth, from cognitive development and educational achievement to self-esteem and ability to socialise and manage stress. When fathers are engaged in children’s education, their children perform better academically and are better able to adapt to their schooling journey emotionally and socially.”
Organisations can provide support by offering flexible hours that allow fathers to send their children to school, attend school events during work hours, volunteer at their children’s schools, and spend time with their children during school holidays by working from home.
For organisations, this is likely to present a win-win situation. When their children are thriving, employees are likely to be happier, more productive, and able to contribute to the success of the organisation.
Building sustainable and inclusive family-friendly policies
With dual-income families now increasingly frequent in Singapore, many parents are constantly searching for the optimum balance between their working and family lives.
To successfully build sustainable and inclusive family-friendly policies, organisations must first acknowledge that employees have responsibilities outside of their jobs, Tan highlighted.
“Employees at different life stages have different needs and employers should create policies that support them to balance and integrate work and family responsibilities at each stage.”
He recommended surveying employees to understand their major concerns so as to define clear goals and objectives for family-friendly policies. Organisations then need to monitor the implementation, uptake, and outcomes of these policies, and be ready to adjust whenever required.
To lend support, CFF offers a variety of talks and workshops for fathers and their children to participate in. Another initiative, called Eat with your Family Day (EWYFD), encourages organisations to allow employees to leave work early at 5pm on the last Friday of each school term in Singapore, to enjoy a meal with their children and families.
To reiterate the critical role employers play in supporting fathers to strengthen families in Singapore, CFF is also organising the second edition of the Great Companies for Dads Awards, which is taking place in 2023 to motivate organisations to continually help their employees, especially fathers, achieve balance between work and family.
In the long-term, this can only benefit organisations, as Tan explained, “Employees who are well-supported by their organisations in work-life integration juggle their roles at work and family more effectively, knowing that their personal lives are looked after. Companies will benefit from greater productivity and employee engagement and have lower employee turnover.”
“Employees who are well-supported by their organisations in work-life integration juggle their roles at work and family more effectively.” – Norman Tan, Group Head, Volunteer Resource & Governance, Centre for Fathering (CFF).
A successful family-friendly policy, he added, is also one that is willing to question traditional gender norms and offer policies that allow working fathers the flexibility to help with daily childcare and home management.
To alleviate fears from fathers that taking advantage of family-friendly workplace rules can be detrimental to their careers, employers must foster a culture that encourages fathers to take up family-friendly benefits and support their decisions to work flexibly without being judged adversely.
“Society’s established traditional parental roles must be challenged if organisations are to develop family-friendly policies that benefit both men and women who are working parents,” Tan said.
Moms on board: How to make co-parenting successful
While organisations can play their part by providing additional childcare leave, flexible work arrangements, and access to programmes such as EWYFD, the significant half of fathers also play a key role in helping families find the perfect balance between work and family.
Cheryl Ng, Head, MUMs for Life, CFF, shared, “Mums should discuss with dads the roles and responsibilities each plays in the home so there is a mutual understanding. At times when either Dad or Mum is caught up in situations when he or she is unable to fulfill a responsibility due to unexpected reasons like work emergencies or health, the spouse can be supportive and do their best to fill in.”
“Mums should discuss with dads the roles and responsibilities each plays in the home so there is a mutual understanding.” – Cheryl Ng, Head, MUMs for Life, Centre for Fathering (CFF), highlights how dual-income families can make co-parenting work.
It may also come down simply to mothers allowing themselves a well-deserved break from time to time and passing the baton to their spouse.
“There are also times when Mum, who often feels a heavier sense of responsibility for the home, may be reluctant to let go of tasks which she deems as part of her role,” Ng said. “Mum should trust Dad to help! Dad may have a different way of managing household chores and the children and it would be good if Mum allows Dad the space to manage things in his own way.”