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How tech is the tonic for the modern working dad

- June 16, 2017 11:08 am

The modern world expectations upon working parents is tough. Combining longer hours, with being involved in all the amazing opportunities for your kids today is a challenge.

It’s a given (and a good thing) that children should learn a sport, play a musical instrument, or learn a second language. It’s the parents that encourage this, and make it all possible.

But there are only so many hours in the day. The increase in hours spent for work and education have to come from somewhere. This conundrum marks a significant shift in British culture within the space of just a couple of generations. For me, being able to have that flexibility around work was paramount.

I took a deliberate choice more than a decade ago to move to a more flexible employer following the birth of my daughter (even taking a drop in salary as a result). But it was a sacrifice well worth making. An employers’ attitude towards work/life balance will only play an increasingly important part in an organisation’s ability to attract and retain the best talent in years to come.

My own experience got me thinking, and ahead of Father’s Day this weekend I caught up with a few of the other working dads at Cisco HQ to see what this flexible work/life balance meant to them.

The right technology is key

“It’s probably the most important thing to me at work,” Cisco product sales specialist Oliver Kenward told me.

“My daughter is the most important thing in my life and spending quality time with her as she grows up is my priority. If you miss a moment – her first smile, her first crawl, her first laugh – you can’t get that moment back. Finding the time to be there is essential.”

And how do we go about finding time to make this happen? After all, no matter how much we’d like to, we can’t be in two places at once.

“Technology is the only way to achieve that balance.” Oliver said. “If I had to physically be in a place of work every day I would have missed so much and also burdened my wife with so much more stress. The ability to be always connected with the right applications at my fingertips whenever I need them means I can be a good parent and a productive employee.”

He added that the combination of remote working helps “maximise capabilities as a parent” and it’s tools such as Spark and video conferencing via WebEx that ensures “collaboration can be as instantaneous and impactful” as being in the office.

Culture is the glue that holds it together

This is all well and good, but a big sticking point for many organisations (thankfully not Cisco!) is trusting their staff to be productive at home. Cisco’s Kayas Fayas argues culture has to play a part in making this a reality.

“I’ve worked at companies where the right ingredients were in place, but the company culture pretty much frowned upon not physically being in the office.

“At the very least, company culture should facilitate restoring balance once an employee raises a work/life balance issue.

“Companies that go beyond, such as Cisco, offer flexible working and virtual office (and then some) and are laying the foundation for other companies to follow and adopt.

“One of my key factors for joining Cisco was most definitely around work/life balance facilitation.”

Cisco’s Jon Ashley echoed the same sentiment on this issue. “Company culture needs to embrace that what we do as parents ultimately affects our children’s future.

“Our children are the workers and tax payers of the future, so as a responsible company this should be nurtured.”

The change must also come from within

So it seems that having the right tech in place, along with a company culture that embraces flexible working are two of the key ingredients critical to making this work. But a lot of this change and attitude can also come from the working dads themselves.

“Both parts of your life – work and family – need to be a success,” said Cisco’s Lucas Betés. “They’re mutually supportive, but every now and again it helps to step back and evaluate the real importance of something.

“Responding to that urgent email may seem like the biggest deal in the world whilst you’re in the office, but really…is it as important as your son’s first swimming lesson?

“Take a step back and get some perspective before you make the decision to miss a ‘first’ in your child’s life.”

This was echoed by Jon, who said fathers who might be struggling to find that balance should take the time to re-evaluate priorities.

“Kids aren’t kids forever,” he said. “There won’t be the memories if that balance cannot be found.

“Children grow up far too quickly, and in some instances I regret missing key moments like sports days and nativity plays due to work pressures.”

* * *

It was fascinating to listen to and share the experiences of some of the other Cisco dads. It felt like we were all on the same wavelength in terms of where work and life priorities should lie.

For me, HR Policy and technology work hand-in-hand. But for a business to embrace mobile working it also requires a large dose of faith. An organisation has to believe its workforce will be happier and more productive with the freedom to work wherever best suits. It comes true almost every time.

Only a mistrusting manager wants to see their employees in person every day. And people judge others by their own standards. So if your management mistrust their teams, that speaks volumes about their own work ethic.

For helping to strike that balance, I think keen diary management doesn’t stop at work. In the same way you prioritise your work diary, doing the same with your family time can work wonders. You can’t attend every significant moment in your offspring’s childhood, so prioritise the memory-making moments.

You’ll know what these are from your own childhood memories. Focus on the things your child enjoys the most!

And just finally, for all the working dads out there, I hope you have a fantastic Father’s Day this Sunday.

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