For working women and men, flexibility seems to be an inevitable wave of the future.
“Organizations that can offer more flexibility around reduced time, caregiving leaves, and flex careers will have a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining employees as the aging workforce and dual focus on personal and professional lives among younger employees become increasingly important drivers in the labor market,” the Families and Work Institute, an expert work-life think tank, explains.
But based on the current trajectory, it will take far too long to get where we need to go.
“We’re making strides. Even five, ten years ago you wouldn’t have talked about flexibility on the job,” says Allison Karl O’Kelly, the founder of Mom Corps, a staffing firm that places mothers in flexible positions around the country which now counts at least 10 percent of their database as men.
“Still, I think this is something so ingrained in our culture and companies that it will take until our millennials are our CEOs for it to really take place.”
For new fathers, that is too long. So we need take action now.
As more men who support full gender equality become dads, there is an opportunity for us to be the generation of change.
Here are the top five steps men can take to get work flexibility, and greater involvement at home—
1. Learn your employer’s policies
...on flexible schedules and telecommuting. Find out about any other employees who have used these options. Also speak with people in positions similar to yours at similar companies— including, and especially, competitor agencies.
2. Ask your manager
...about the possibility of telecommuting and/or starting a flexible schedule. Remember you are not required to share any personal information.
3. Design and present a pitch
...for the type of schedule that would work for you. Just as with parental leave, present this pitch either in person or in writing, depending on how your employer operates and how you communicate best.
In the pitch, explain how you would get your work done, be accessible when needed, and ensure results. Use information and data in this book. Use this pitch even if your manager has said there’s no willingness to consider flexibility. You might change the company’s mind!
4. Set a time frame
You might not get an answer the next day or the next week. Explain in the kindest way possible that you need to know by a certain date because of developments in your private life. Make it clear you’re not threatening anything; you just need to plan.
5. Take it or look elsewhere
If you’re given even just a bit of what you asked for, take it! You can show how well it works and be a pioneer. Fulfill all your work responsibilities and be prepared to show the results.
Other employees will be jealous of you and may snark. Don’t stoop to their level. Ignore the naysayers, and deliver results. Remember, you are standing up for your family and carving a path for others.
If your employer refuses, look elsewhere for a job. Explain to prospective employers that this is a big reason you’re willing to make the move. Remember, you’re an American with a freedom that previous generations fought and died for. Use it!
Don’t be afraid to go somewhere in which the leadership respects and tries to accommodate you as a modern, committed parent.
When people ask me about my fight for paternity-leave fairness, I emphasize that there are all sorts of ways to rise up. So maybe you can’t take your employer to the EEOC for a sexist policy. Something you can do, however, is stand up for a schedule that makes sense.
There’s also something very simple that many big companies could offer right away that would make a huge difference. It would save money, attract and retain top talent, and help resolve a national crisis that affects tens of millions of people every day.