With Men’s Health Week and Father’s day falling this week, we thought it was high time we talked about some of the issues facing men in today’s world of work – and beyond. Yes, we often discuss gender issues here at Totum, seizing any opportunity to help break down the barriers still faced in retaining talented women in law.

But the world isn’t only changing for women. Just as women have discovered that their careers don’t have to end when they have children, so have men realised that they don’t necessarily need to sacrifice their fatherhood to bring home the bacon.

According to the largest ever study of the UK workforce conducted in 2017 by Timewise, 84% of the men surveyed work flexibly or wish to do so compared to 91% of women (flexibility defined as working part time, or working reduced hours, shift choices or the ability to work from home for some, or all, of the working week). In addition, in the 2017 Modern Families Index, more than half of millennial fathers want to move to a less stressful job to be involved with their children, and 48% would take a pay cut to achieve better work-life balance.

These statistics will only be further reinforced by the evolution of the modern family. Around 10% of single parents are fathers, for instance, and many more share parental responsibility following a separation. More men now require as much flexibility in the workplace as mothers for childcare responsibilities.

And it’s not just parents who are changing working culture. The fact that 73% of Millennials (aged 18 to 34) who are working full time are now doing so flexibly, suggests a deep cultural shift. Increasingly, people view flexibility and work/life balance as an everyday norm – you shouldn’t need extra-curricular duties to get it.

Old vs new

 

For all this positivity, however, the reality is that men can still feel caught up in a more traditional approach – and more so than women. Many still do not feel comfortable approaching an employer about flexible working – and not surprisingly. Recent statistics cite that men are twice as likely to have requests for flexible work hours rejected, and many managers still frown upon men asking for flexible arrangements – seeing it as a sign of limited ambition that will harm promotion prospects. The Modern Families Index research found that 44% of the men surveyed had lied to their employers about family-related responsibilities that ‘get in the way’ of work.

And work is not the only area of life where men are in danger of playing to the old rules. In this Men’s Health Week, it’s worth reflecting on recent research from Boots that shows that men in the UK visit the doctor 20% less than their female partners. That’s despite one in five men dying before the age of 65, three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women, and liver disease (typically alcohol related) being the third top cause of death for men aged 20-34.

We know men still enjoy many advantages in the workplace – and far more men than women still advance to leadership levels, enjoying the wealth and status that comes with that. But that doesn’t make it easy. Between tradition and change, the man’s role is also in flux. The transition to new ways of working and parenting will bring opportunities and challenges for men and women. But increasingly neither need conform to gender expectations.

What would our advice be to men in this Men’s Health Week and Father’s Day?

Prioritise what you want and need from life, seek out and work for employers who reflect your values, and don’t be afraid to ask to do things differently (you won’t be alone and as the calls for change grow louder, more employers are listening!). But most of all, look after your wellbeing and health – in this new world, the idea that men should always be strong and silent is another stereotype well overdue a good shake-up.

Enjoy time off this Father’s Day – from all of us at Totum.

 

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