Men make up more than half the work force and share the responsibility for the creation of children, but companies often overlook men when they're developing family- friendly policies. That's not fair to men or women.
Considering men in family policy isn't just a matter of being a nice boss--it's good business. "In supporting men with their family-care needs, you'll also be supporting women," says James Levine, director of the Fatherhood Project at the Families and Work Institute in New York City and author of Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family (Harcourt Brace & Co.). "You'll be challenging the assumption that it's women, and women alone, who have to take care of kids and elderly parents."
Levine says you need to realize that just because your employees aren't talking about their family responsibilities doesn't mean they don't have them. Let the fathers in your company know that you're aware they have personal concerns outside the workplace and that you want them to be comfortable bringing up those needs.
It's important to keep a level playing field. Also be flexible for employees without children and/or aging parents. If employees have other personal obligations that would benefit from flexibility in the workplace, look for ways to accommodate them. At the same time, make sure all employees understand that flexibility doesn't mean less responsibility to their jobs. For example, a request for time off for a personal need should be accompanied by a plan for how missed work will get done.
For more on balancing work and families, see "Your So-Called Life" on page 146.
Jacquelyn Lynn has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, for 12 years.