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Three Work-Life Initiatives with Men in Mind

By Jesse Lent

For decades, books, magazines and talk shows have pondered if it is possible for “woman to have it all?” Meaning of course, a rewarding career and a rich family life. However, the question is rarely asked on behalf of men.

But in fact, there is increasingly more evidence that men are motivated by work/life issues too.

In a study released earlier this year by the London School of Economics, T. Alexandra Beauregard presents research findings confirming that a gender gap does exist in work-life programs.

“The perception often exists in organizations that work-life balance initiatives are intended primarily for the benefit of working mothers,” Beauregard writes. “As a result when men take up these initiatives, their use can be seen as unusual and subject to question.”

Beauregard found that these prejudices lead a vast majority of men, particularly those higher up on the corporate ladder, to not take advantage of work-life programs, even paternity leave.

Clearly, men need their own work-life initiatives, or at the very least, programs that they can take advantage of without fear of being accused of lack of entitlement or even laziness. In short, they need programs created for them.

Here are three corporate initiatives designed to specifically help fathers. Perhaps they can provide a roadmap of what such programs would look like in your company.

1. The Young Dads Program

Out of Ottawa, Canada, The Young Dads Program was a 2011 nominee for the Fernand Lozier Award of Excellence in Father Involvement Practice.

The program offers a three-tiered approach, the first tier being individual support counseling. Fathers are able to schedule time with a counselor to discuss parenting issues they are grappling with.

The second element of the program is a series of weekly group seminars called “It’s My Child Too.” Issues like child development, fathers’ roles, and fostering healthy relationships are confronted in the series, which is primarily geared towards young fathers.

The third tier of the program is a weekly informal night out The Young Dads Program calls their Young Fathers’ Drop-In. Dad play different sports each week and then have a meal accompanied by casual conversation or the occasional guest speaker. Every other week, employees bring their children to the event.

2. National Fatherhood Initiative’s Corporate Starter Kit

For companies looking to develop a father-based work-life initiative for the first time, the organization National Fatherhood Initiative offers a Corporate Starter Kit complete with literature, interactive resources and instructions for a ‘Lunch and Learn.’ The kit is available on the group’s website.

National Fatherhood Initiative also provides eight-hour workshops on “The Habits of a 24/7 Dad” and a monthly eNewsletter offering strategies for working fathers.

“Our model is the hope and the possibilities of being a great dad,” National Fatherhood Initiative President Roland Warren said in an interview with Fox Weekend Live. Warren has been a frequent guest of numerous television news programs and appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

3. Fathers at Work

For a less one-size-fits-all type of approach, Fathers at Work offers seminars specifically tailored to the specific situation at your company. These lectures are focused on resolving the conflict fathers may feel by being pulled in two different directions in once, with work and family time vying for their attention.

Fathers at Work’s seminar series, entitled Balancing Father Stress and Professional Success: Helping Bridge the Work/Family Divide is adapted for each participating company.

The group makes the case that employers have much to gain by providing the fathers in their organization, with improvements to morale and productivity being among the benefits. They also point out that a company can make itself more appealing for potential male employees by showing they are sympathetic to the needs of working fathers.

Seminars are typically offered in two hour, four hour or full day formats, with phone coaching also available.

Although none of these programs offer specific prescriptions of what work-life balance should be at any one organization or what work-life initiatives relating to time off should look like, they all make inroads into what should be expected of working dads. And for a demographic left out of the conversation for decades, perhaps companies will now make a move towards encouraging them to utilize parental benefits.

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