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How working dads can stay involved at home once offices re-open

The shift to remote work has, for many family households, led to a significant change in the home-life dynamic: Dads are at home, effectively altering their roles within the home, involving them more heavily with caregiving and housekeeping. However, as we precariously venture into a post-Covid normal and slowly shift into a hybrid work arrangement, or re-enter the office full-time, how will fathers be able to maintain active roles in their children’s lives?

A team of researchers from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and Harvard Kennedy School are conducting an ongoing longitudinal study on working fathers during the pandemic, and have interviewed several dads from across the US, in both urban and suburban areas. Their findings demonstrate that fathers hope to continue their involvement in their children’s lives, even as offices re-open. This could lead to long-lasting benefits for individual families as well as in the professional sphere.

Prior to the pandemic, mothers frequently reported having to fulfill their professional responsibilities, and then take on a “second shift” of work at home, often at the cost of their emotional well-being, earnings, and professional development.

This allows men to appear always available and more committed as workers, which doesn’t only negatively affect women, but men as well. Fathers in these situations can end up feeling overworked and disconnected from their families, leaving them craving more quality time with their spouses and children.

Most men who participated in the study did not become primary caregivers during the pandemic, however, they did become regularly involved at home, which led to meaningful benefits to their marriage and families. Even ex-spouses found that the pandemic made cooperating to raise their children easier.

Some fathers said that they hardly saw their children before the pandemic, as they would leave for work before they woke up and return after bedtime. Now, they can’t imagine reverting to that routine.

To avoid reclaiming their pre-pandemic roles, men must be intentional about being engaged in their daily routines at home. During the pandemic, men explain how they’ve taken charge of bath time, cooking dinner with their children, and getting them up for school.

Continuing their involvement in the home, dads will be required to negotiate with their partners as well as their colleagues at work, but research shows that men tend to hesitate to seek family accommodations from their managers because it goes against the stereotypical image of working men.

That said, some of the fathers participating in the study have reported that they have already requested that their work adjusts to their families’ needs. Most of the time, they find that their colleagues and employers have been receptive and supportive. One father who asked for meetings to be moved so that he can continue picking up his kids from school noted that his request prompted another one of his teammates to ask to block out the day his son was at home learning online.

Now that the pandemic has allowed us to experience the benefits of fathers who are more involved in the home, arrangements that may have felt inaccessible pre-Covid are now recognized as achievable. The research also makes clear that involved fathers are good for their children, their spouses, and their employers.

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