Recognising the importance of a positive work-life balance, the UK government has introduced a number of laws designed to encourage a more flexible approach to employment. Many organisations are now seeing the value of actively encouraging flexible working, rather than viewing it as a legal requirement.
Flexible working has provided dads with the opportunity to spend less time at work and more time with their families. There is still some way to go, however, before dads working flexibly becomes commonplace. A survey conducted by workingmums.co.uk found that 73% of working dads are considering flexible working, but 72% are concerned about their employer's reaction.
What is 'flexible working'
There are several types of flexible working; job sharing, working from home, part-time, flexitime, annualised hours, staggered hours, phased retirement and compressed hours. In this guide, we'll be taking a look at compressed hours for dads, the process for requesting compressed hours and the pros and cons, while also considering the other options available for working dads.
Dad case studies
For many dads who want more flexibility in their work life, cutting an entire eight hours from their week is not financially viable. Compressed hours, therefore, becomes an attractive option, allowing you to work the same number of hours in fewer days. If you are contracted to work 40 hours per week, you might work four 10-hour days instead of the usual five eight hour days.
Mike Connelly, 37, Liverpool, legal adviser
I decided I wanted to compress my hours to spend more time with my daughter, Amelia, and son, Jackson, and to reduce childcare costs. Work for me is 35 hours over four days, giving me every Wednesday off. My experience with getting compressed hours was really positive - all I had to do was fill in a simple form and management accepted it shortly after. In fact, my employer has been really understanding and supportive the whole way through. I sometimes struggle to complete the same amount of work in four days, but I see it as a price worth paying for those Wednesdays with my children. It's not easy, but it's all about how you manage your time to avoid work spilling into your day off.
Graham Santer, 31, Sheffield, retail manager
I compressed my working hours quite recently after I suffered a severe mental breakdown last year. It made me realise what was important so I chose compressed working to spend more time with my family. My doctor actually gave a professional recommendation but my line manager wasn't receptive to the idea. I had to go through a full grievance process against my manager and won.
Now, I'm working nine-hour days to get an extra day off in the week. I've been far more productive since compressing my hours and with the mental health benefits, I can't praise it enough. The only downside I have is that I sometimes pick up the laptop to do the odd bits on my days off. I'm still quite new to compressed hours so I'm still establishing that mindset off being completely off.
Think about this: When you're lying on your death bed, are you going to be thinking 'darn, I wish I'd spent more time at the office?'. The kids are only young once and I resent missing out on so much.
Mark Nicol, 37, Cornwall, personal trainer
Appeals and challenges
For most dads, the biggest appeals of working compressed hours are:
- The ability to spend an entire dedicated day every week with your children, while maintaining a full-time salary.
- It's something that few men have been able to do in the past 50 years.
- More time with family, a less stressful commute and increased productivity at work all contribute to a much healthier work-life balance.
- Longer working hours often mean your commute falls outside of the typical rush-hour, meaning quicker and less stressful journeys.
- Arriving at the office before everyone else, or sticking around after everyone leaves, leads to higher productivity as a result of a distraction-free environment.
There are, however, challenges that come with compressed hours.
10 hours or more a day can be a huge mental and physical drain on your wellbeing, especially if you still have to come home and entertain the children, cook, clean, and put them to bed.
The key challenges:
- There is also no guarantee your extra day will be enough to offset your tiredness.
- Besides, the whole point of compressing your hours is to spend more quality time with your children, not recovering from a shorter, but more intense work schedule.
- Longer working days also reduce the amount of time you have with your family in the evenings. But with long commutes already limiting that time, is it a trade-off many are willing to take, especially those with younger ones who have earlier bedtimes.
How to request compressed hours
Depending on your employer, the process of securing compressed hours can differ.
Smaller, newer businesses may have a more modern culture that allows for decisions to be made over an informal conversation. Managers at these types of businesses aren't likely to need much convincing that compressed hours is a workable and beneficial option for both you and the business.
However, many dads will work for organisations where a formal request must be made. For these dads, there are two ways to make a request for compressed hours.
A statutory request means your employer must consider it fairly and reasonably against their legal obligations to offer flexible working. Should your employer reject the request unfairly, you, therefore, have the law on your side.
There are a number of elements to consider before submitting a statutory request:
- A clear outline of how you'd like to compress your hours.
- How you see the changes affecting the organisation and team members.
- Covering off how any challenges will be addressed.
- It can also work in your favour to explain why you'd like to compress your hours - sometimes the humanity of your plan can be the key to a positive outcome. However, if you don't want to reveal your reasons, you don't have to.
The second option is to make a non-statutory request. This type is available to everyone, regardless of how long they've worked with a company and does not limit the number of times a request can be made.
Before asking for compressed hours, you should consider whether or not you are prepared to spend less time with your family for certain days of the week in order to spend at least one full day with them in the week.
Other types of flexible working
Compressed hours is just one of several types of flexible working. Flexible working as a whole is a method of working that suits an employee's needs, which why there are several different types.
Job share - Job sharing sees two people do one job, splitting the required hours to suit their needs. The employer doesn't lose out on any working hours or time in the office, while the employees get the part-time work they're looking for.
Home/remote working - Arguably the most popular form of flexible working, home or remote working allows employees to do their job away from the office. It is often used by workers whose physical location plays no role in their ability to do their job.
Part-time - This allows workers to do the same role, but reduce the number of hours they work at a reduced salary.
Flexitime - Flexitime allows workers to choose their start and finish times, making it a popular option for parents with older children. Employers often enforce 'core hours' during the middle of the day.
Annualised hours - This gives a certain number of hours they have to work over a year or other period of time. Although core hours may be enforced, workers have the freedom to complete the rest of their hours whenever they like.
Flexible working - Dad case studies
I've been working flexibly since September 2018 after childcare costs for three little ones got too high. I'd never even looked into flexible working until recently but I have a flexitime and remote working arrangement that allows me to leave early to pick up my 3-year old, Milo, from nursery before picking up Lilly (9) and Niamh (5) from school and make up the time in the evening.
It works really well in terms of childcare costs and spending more time with them, but it can be quite stressful having to come home, be 'dad' and still do the rest of my work afterwards, so there is little time for myself.
I must admit my career is also on hold for the moment. More senior positions require you to be at the office full-time, so I can't really progress until I stop flexible working. Despite that, I'll always recommend flexible working for any dad. The extra time you get with your kids in invaluable.
James Burton, 30, Channel Islands, IT engineer and blogger
I started flexible shortly after the birth of my little boy, who is now five, because my wife began to suffer from mental health problems after he was born.
Working for me is four days in the office and one day at home with flexitime for those four days in the office. I need the freedom to arrive late after taking my son to school if my wife isn't able to, as well as leaving early to pick him up.
Some people might be worried about submitting a flexible working request but mine couldn't have gone better. My company has been so supportive of my arrangements. They even said they were frustrated they couldn't do more to help. Having that 'official' flexible working has given me a piece of mind and freedom to arrive late or leave early. But the best thing is that I get to spend more time with my son!
Lewis Hibell, 38, Dorset, software engineer and blogger
What is abundantly clear about flexible working is that it is changing the perception of how we should work. And for dads, there is a range of reasons to seek flexible working or compressed hours, whether it's childcare, mental health, family care needs or simply the desire to spend more time with your family.
From speaking to a range of dads about their experiences, one thing is clear - both flexible working and compressed hours can be tough, but a better work-life balance and more time with your children is more than worth it.
Ready for more?
Explore our full set of guides for all your dads at work needs here.