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Balancing work and family

In recent years the important role of dads in the first months of a baby’s life has been increasingly recognised,  for bonding with the new baby,  supporting mum,  and learning about being a dad. Indeed, nearly all the men who took part in a recent study said that if there were no financial penalty they would step away from work to spend time with their new baby.

Now, employers are acknowledging in bigger numbers that two weeks of paternity leave isn’t going to cut it and all parents need a way to spend time with a baby without having to suffer financially. Parenting is a team effort and all the players need to be on the field.

One of the workplaces that offers increased flexibility for dads on staff is Unilever. Paul Connell from Unilever had a chat to Newborn Baby about what flexible working means for him and his family.  Paul and his fiance Amy welcomed Alfie Denis eight months ago and Paul has been able to embrace the flexibility that Unilever offers in order to maximise his time with Alfie and Amy.

For him, that means waking up when Alfie does (i.e, early!) and starting his work day before the standard 9am in order to leave by 5pm. This way he can see Alfie at breakfast and make it home for bath time every day, which means special time together every day.

Paul relishes the trust and support Unilever provide by offering flexibility to all staff. For him, it means he can balance career and family without having to sacrifice one for the other.

One of the big challenges when dads consider making work life flex to suit family life is the culture of the business.  Employers can easily have flexible policies,  but creating a work culture where everyone feels supported to make use of those policies is much harder.

Paul told Newborn Baby that at Unilever, that culture starts from the top. The stigma attached to men who work flexibly for family reasons can lead to reluctance. People at all levels of the business making use of flex policies helps create the sort of workplace culture that translates words into action. He notes that he’s been at Unilever for nine years and the workplace culture that supports families and diversity not only means good things for the bottom line, but for everyone’s mental health and happiness.

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