Paul Broad reflects on quality time with his daughter during his flex-Friday schedule over 8 weeks
With much excitement, a seemingly huge uniform, and without a hint of hesitation, my 4 ½ year old daughter started school this year. Finally, she got to join her big brother, a step she was more than ready to take. I was excited to see her go, albeit with a tinge of nostalgia, as one part of our family’s journey ended, and another exciting chapter began.
When I reflected on it, I was proud that I had taken the opportunity to spend more time than normal with her at the end of last year. It came about after a conversation with my wife in which I admitted I felt I was missing out on time with her, so I put a plan in place to address it. Fortunately, I have a boss who was incredibly supportive, and work for a Company that manages flexibility very well.
I agreed a plan with my manager to take one annual leave day for the last 8 weeks of 2018, essentially working a four-day week. We took our daughter out of day care on that day, and our ‘Daddy-Daughter Day’ quickly became sacrosanct in our house. I also communicated the temporary change with my key clients who were overwhelmingly supportive.
I knew that I was going to enjoy spending the time with my daughter, but I was amazed to find that I learnt so much more than I had bargained for. For a start—and to be honest I wasn’t too surprised by this one—my daughter can put up a very strong, very logical argument. I learnt that she is a very funny person, and not in that ‘aren’t kids funny?’ kind of way: truly an objectively funny person. She cracks me up, and a has quite a wicked sense of humour. I learnt that she can tell the time when it is ‘o-clock’, she gets frustrated when she can’t do things the first time, and she loves dancing just a little more than I thought she did. Most importantly, I was reminded that the best thing that I could do with her on these days wasn’t the big-ticket items, it was simply being present with her, even if it was to simply watch Play School.
The other lessons I learnt though have given me invaluable insight as a HR Manager. Make no mistake, working a reduced week is bloody hard. Despite everything I put in place to manage the overall workload, I still found that the four-day week increased my stress levels significantly. I found it very difficult to switch off: I checked my emails during my days off on as many days as I didn’t, and I still very much felt the need to get five days’ worth of work done in four. I found that my working days were longer than usual, and I would be checking emails at times in which I’d normally have put the phone down and spent with my family. There were also of course the times on which my phone would ring on a Friday and I’d need to answer it, or that occasional teleconference that would be set up despite the other participants knowing that Friday was my day off.
Trying to manage the balance between my family life, which I love, and my work life, which I thoroughly enjoy, was a real challenge. As a HR Manager, I have a new-found appreciation for those who work part-time to be able to manage family responsibilities, and the pressure that they experience as a result. As an industry, we need to commit to doing our very best to support our people who do such an amazing job, both for our clients and for their key clients outside of work.
Paul Broad is an HR Manager is Australia. He works out of the Brisbane office.