A couple of years ago, single dad & CEO Ian Sohn wrote a LinkedIn post on flexibility at work that went viral. We caught up in June 2021 in honor of Father’s Day and International Fathers’ Mental Health Day to discuss workplace flexibility for parents.
Lauren: You wrote I never need to know... back in 2019. Now we're more than a year into a pandemic that has pulled the curtain back on what it's like to be a working parent. While transparency and "parenting out loud" can be helpful, millions of American women have left the workforce or scaled back because of childcare responsibilities. Has your perspective on being a boss changed when it comes to "needing to know" an employee’s responsibilities outside work?
Ian: I'm proud that I was talking about this well before the pandemic. And if anything, my philosophy has only been reinforced. It's so simple: hire people of high integrity and talent, whom you trust; encourage them to bring their whole selves to work; demand accountability; give them the tools to succeed; model the kind of behavior you expect from everyone in the organization.
Lauren: Any recommendations for parents (or others) who need certain flexibility accommodations — such as logging off by 5, getting to work after school drop-off, etc. — and are apprehensive of how their employers will react?
Ian: There's no doubt that establishing rules, norms and behaviors early (even during the interview process, if applicable) is a recipe for success. In terms of being afraid of how employers will respond, that's very real. But by getting out front of the topic you'll know if you're walking into a hornet's nest or not; and then it's up to you to decide what your tolerance level is.
Lauren: Why do you feel work/life balance is not just a women's or moms' issue?
Ian: It's a human issue. Or at least it should be. Unfortunately there are still institutional biases against working moms (and women, in general) in many industries. I think it's critical for men to make their voices heard — to make a withdrawal from their privilege bank — to ensure everyone knows we will not stand for an oppressive work environment. Men have to demand that our companies to better.
Lauren A. Tetenbaum, LMSW, JD works with parents & aspiring parents, millennials, young adults, and teens. She is trained in maternal mental health by the Seleni Institute and Postpartum Support International and is an advocate for working parents.