About To Lose Your Working Dads? Here's How to Keep Them

Working fathers

Whenever there's a surprising new workplace trend, there are always the skeptics asking...can it really be true?

Such is the case with the news that working fathers would dial back careers in order to protect family life. Would they really take lower pay for greater flexibility?

"Workplace analysts," read a Boston Globe article on the subject, "questioned whether a majority of working fathers were willing to actually quit lucrative jobs for lower-paying ones with more family-related perks."

The Trend of the Modern Working Dads

It's true, not every dad is going to abandon the fast lane for family friendlier pastures. But the fact that many are talking about it - and that some actually do - is worth noting. Because it means there's a new dad in town, and companies ignore him at their own peril.

For perspective, one need only look to the ultra-cool benefits rolled out by tech companies starting about a decade ago. News about nap pods and free cafeterias had employees looking wistfully to the west, imagining themselves in the land of space-age snoozing and all-you-can-eat gratis food. The doubtful cluck-clucked about what it all meant, with one Bloomberg article declaring pointedly, "Office Perks are Dumb."

Of course, nap pods didn't start appearing by every cubicle. And the masses didn't decamp for Silicon Valley. But employees did start looking glumly at their own places of business and reevaluating what they should - and want to -- be able to expect. Silicon Valley may have aced the cool factor, but employees everywhere wanted some small part of the new-wave office, and were looking longingly at new jobs to find it. Sensing a retention problem, smart companies from coast to coast took up the banner to embrace the trend and make it their own. Instead of nap pods, they welcomed dogs, offered in-house manicures, happy hours, and other forms of culturally appropriate good fun. Workplace cultures became more than calling cards - they became employer brands.

Not Only Will Working Dads Downshift; But They Still Might Leave

The working dad phenomenon has the same potential arc. Ambitious dads may not decide to downshift away from the corner office; but they might well take their ambitions and talents to companies that have embraced the modern-dad vibe, and who don't frown on dad for taking time off after a baby, and who don't look derisively at him when he leaves work early to pick up his daughter from child care. One need only visit one of Bright Horizons child care centers around the country to see that dads on drop off/pick up is a very real phenomenon. And one need only read our Modern Family Index to see the task is indeed being frowned upon.

So go ahead skeptics and be skeptical. But don't be so sure that dads order their lives with family chasing so far behind careers in order of importance; or that ambition means you've got a long-term lock on their skills. Without a culture shift to recognize the modern order of things, the presence of progressive competitors who are sensing the trend means even the most ambitious dads are most decidedly at risk for heading out the door.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.