Ask the Expert: How can I spend more time with my family without problems at work?
Q: Work is really busy and I'm working much longer hours, which means my wife often has to look after our young children on her own. How can I spend more time with my family without causing problems at work?
A: Speaking before Go Home on Time Day (June 21), Jonathan Swan, head of research at the Working Families (workingfamilies.org.uk) charity, says: "Nobody minds when they have to put in extra time at work now and again, when there's a big project or looming deadline.
"But when this happens all the time, and long hours are the norm, it becomes a problem, especially when there are other things you want to do, like spending time with your family.
"Research shows what people need are 'human-sized' jobs, where the workload matches the hours allocated to the role. When hours get longer and longer, there are negative consequences – performance drops and resentment builds. People need to go home on time.
"Fathers can find this particularly difficult. The idea of being an involved dad has evolved and fathers want to spend more time with their young children. Expectations and social norms have changed, but often workplaces haven't adjusted correspondingly.
"Although many offer flexible working policies, these are often undermined by the underlying culture where long hours and presenteeism are believed to be essential to progression.
"Fathers only have to look at women who've combined childcare and a career to see the often chilling effect balancing work and home has had on their career progression. It's no surprise so few men work part-time.
"For parents trapped in a long hours and presenteeism bind, there are a number of actions they could take. They could put in a flexible working request, which any employee with at least 26 weeks of service has a legal right to do.
"Finding others who seem to have a better balance and learning how they've navigated this would also be worthwhile, especially if they're senior.
"The most daunting task – because of worries about people mistaking it for a lack of commitment – is to talk to your manager about reducing your workload. Many employees, even if they have a good relationship with their manager, are hesitant about doing this.
"But to really effect change means grappling with the twin issues of work volume and work intensity, and for this you have to enlist your line manager's help. It's a tough conversation – but if you really want a better work-life balance, it's one you'll have to have."