What Are You Worried About At Work?

Working dads are now more worried about being penalized for parenting than working moms.

When I read this stat, from Bright Horizons’s annual Modern Family Index, I thought: it was predictable, it’s step forward and I hope it doesn’t send working dads running to be managing directors at J.P. Morgan where they are mandated to be in the office five days a week or else!

I’m so grateful that BrightHorizons measures these sentiments and has been doing so for nearly a decade. In so many aspects of work, we look at data and try to learn from it.

Sales are up or down.

Investors are making money or losing it.

Consumers buy orange shirts and sweaters (like me) or they don’t.

How quickly and efficiently can you get a product from A to B? We know that.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure, the saying goes. But what about the link behind what working parents are thinking and what they are doing?

Working fathers should, of course, be taking advantage of flexible work offerings without worrying about their careers being penalized. It’s good for them but it’s really good for working moms, since it’s a step in removing the stigma that moms parent and dads work. But 44 percent of dads are afraid to take these benefits – 8 percentage points higher than working mothers.

Working remotely in general is of greater concern to dads too – 43 percent worry about it compared to 27 percent of mothers.

This of course is something working moms have had to deal with for decades – the perception that parenting and working at a high level were incompatible. That men are now concerned is predictable – particularly when pre-pandemic men at work were encouraged to be Event Dads, not Lead Dads.

Is the concern a step forward? It’s certainly a sign that some companies are offering these benefits and encouraging dads to take them. But are corporate leaders – both men and women – modeling the taking of the benefits they’re offering? That’s when you know a company is taking a step-forward. I’d love to see more Dad executives like David Newson who told The Company of Dads podcast about putting his care time for his young son on his calendar. In doing so, other partners at his firm and everyone below him in the org chart could see it.

Now does the concern around being a man who – gasp – takes time to care for his children send male workers seeking the florescent glow of the office like we’re in the 1989 part of #TaylorSwift’s Eras Tour? If ever I’m counting on Gen Z for something it’s to, well, shake it off and embrace the new dynamic of working intentionally and parenting openly.

And to those executives counting young employees’ days at their desk, not their productivity, I’ll throw out one more Swift hit: Karma.