It doesn’t matter if you’ve taken two weeks of paternity leave or six months, going back to work can be a shock. There are very good reasons for that. When you were last at work, you weren’t a dad. And as you probably already know, being a dad changes everything.
Preparing for your return
There are things you can do in advance of your return date to make the transition a bit easier. For a start, it might be worth rehearsing the new routine you will have to adopt when you go back to work as a new dad:
If you’ve been away from work for an extended period, is it worth dropping into the office in the week before your return? That might help to ease any back-to-work anxieties you might feel after a long time away.
Finally, remember that the first months of fatherhood are not always the healthiest time. Check that your work clothes still fit and make sure they’re ironed, clean and ready to go.
You may have discussed working more flexible hours with your boss or HR department. Or officially requested a more baby-friendly work/life balance (your employer is legally bound to consider requests for flexible working). If not, our guide to flexible working steers you through all of the available options.
Alternatively, maybe your intention is simply to stick to your contracted hours and do no more.
Whichever you’ve chosen, the reality of reducing your commitment to work after having a baby can be challenging.
Challenges at work
These fears are adding to the anxieties of working dads. Research suggests that 44% of dads have lied about family-related responsibilities, fearful that a perceived focus on home life will damage their careers.
In addition, further research has revealed that almost half of dads would be prepared to downshift to a less stressful job to better reconcile work and home life.
Research published by the US-based Pew Research Centre in 2015 revealed that dads were much more likely than mums to say the time they spend with children is never enough.
Being at work as a new dad
Research from our own Millennial Dad at Work 2019 reveal that:
- Only 36% sited 'career progression' as a motivation to move jobs since becoming a new dad. Salary (52%) and 'flexibility to accommodate parental responsibilities' (39%) were the number 1 and 2 results.
- 1 in 3 dads are actively looking for a job, with 37% citing more flexibility as the key reason.
That’s certainly one way to deal with returning to work after having a baby. If you work in the type of business or sector where promotion tends to be a reward for those who put in the longest hours and show least concern for work/life balance, it may be the moment to take a step back. Accept that your career may be on cruise control until your child is a little older. Or perhaps think about moving to a less demanding job.
Luckily, many organisations are moving beyond that mindset. Realising that the loyalty of good, experienced, and productive staff is more valuable than the unsatisfactory efforts of unhappy and overworked colleagues.
Making your new work/life routine stick
There is clearly a convincing business case for flexible working, especially for new parents. This toolkit from Unison reveals that, when companies embrace flexible working:
- Productivity and commitment improves – for example, British Telecom proved that productivity of flexible workers increased by 30%.
- Sickness absence is reduced – a recent UNISON survey showed that sickness reduced from 12% to 2% amongst those that worked flexibly.
For employers, and right down to the level of the team, the benefits of treating returning fathers well is obvious. Happier workers are better workers. They are also less likely to jump ship.
Which is all well and good, but how do you, as a new dad, ensure that the realities of a busy working life don’t derail your plans for better work/life balance, and that you remain valued as an employee?
Simon Gregory, co-founder of return-to-work recruitment experts GPS Return, gives his tips:
- To begin with, companies need to get on board...they need to understand is that working compressed hours, reduced hours or from home does not make that individual any less worthwhile, and the teams that this person is working with should be educated about this.
- Be aware that workplace ‘banter’ can become bullying and discrimination very quickly and that depends on how the leadership team deal with it. As a dad returning to work don’t be afraid to speak to your manager or to the HR team if you think the ‘banter’ is going too far.
- Speak to your company about your career goals and make it clear to them that even though you have restructured your week you still aspire to grow and develop.
- Get a clear career growth plan from them, with targets and objectives for promotion and this will both create something you can refer back to but also demonstrate to your employer that your head is still firmly in the game.
Dad case study
Tom Pepper. Director, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, UK
“As I found, returning to work even after six weeks is daunting and that’s why our HR team has spent a lot of time looking at how the business can support those returning to work. For example, employees are encouraged to attend Nurture In sessions to talk to how to balance their work and home life. Managers are also coached in how to help an employee going on maternity or paternity leave, or returning from leave.
I was very ready to get back to the routine, pace and challenge of work. The things I missed most were picking up my 4 year old from preschool and swimming classes with the baby.
However with a more flexible approach to work, I can still enjoy these things from time to time.
Striking a balance
Part of striking the right balance going forward has meant I now aim to get into work earlier and leave earlier, at least three times a week. This allows me to spend more quality time with my family in the evening and be there for dinner, bath and bedtime.
The birth of a baby is a life-changing moment and I believe businesses have a huge role to play to help working parents and consider how they can support their employees through flexible working options, whether that’s working from home or introducing flexi-time initiatives, or even being open to have that conversation to begin with.
I really wanted to strike a better work/life balance following the birth of my second child and as a leader within the business I also saw taking the full paternity leave as a brilliant opportunity to role model the change in policy.
I wouldn’t hesitate to take paternity leave again and would feel very comfortable putting in the request next time knowing how supported I’ve been throughout the whole process.”