Being forced to work from home during the pandemic has created more flexible working environments. That’s a given. And while this has caused an overall shift in how people define and value work/life balance, it might be having a more profound impact on what wellbeing means to men, if Legal & General’s latest research is anything to go by.
Speaking exclusively to TheHRDirector during National Work Life Week, the provider says that its SME Wellbeing at Work Barometer1 found that, for men, flexible working is their top wellbeing priority. Almost half (48%) said it was a key factor to their wellbeing at work compared to 37% of women.
“This finding indicates a shift in the way men view their roles at work and at home as a result of the changes enforced by the pandemic, with many realising that being able to work more flexibly and cutting out commuting time has enabled them to create a much better work/life balance,” says Jo Elphick, Marketing Director of Group Protection at Legal & General.
“You rarely hear the phrase ‘he’s a working dad’ as the onus is generally on mums, but this shift to a home working environment has perhaps created a fairer home life for many, where for the first time, both parents are able to take a more active role in childcare.
“For many working fathers, working from home meant they can do the school run, perhaps for the first time, help their children with homework, take them to afterschool clubs; the kind of things they might not have realised they were missing out on before the pandemic hit.
“Obviously, flexible working isn’t just about children; it has also enabled men to spend more time with their parents, or other family members as well as enabling working men to pop to the shops, to the gym or go for a run during the normal working day.”
Legal & General’s research also found big differences of opinion between men and women when it comes to wellbeing. The widest discrepancy in male / female opinion is seen around the importance of having a sense of purpose; men rating this much more highly than women.
When asked what ‘wellbeing’ means, more than one in three men (36%) said having good work acknowledged by colleagues and/or superiors is a key part compared to just one in five women (20%). Only half of men (54%) said feeling ‘mentally well’ was an important part of overall wellbeing for them, compared to almost three quarters (74%) of women; and less than half of men (44%) said wellbeing was about being physically well compared to 71% of women.
“Clearly, wellbeing means very different things to different people though,” adds Jo. “Back to the subject of flexible working and, while this is the ideal for some, for others being in the office enables a proper division between work and home, which they prefer. Our research shows that priorities differ quite significantly between gender and age. That is why it is vital that employers listen to their staff, understand their wellbeing concerns and needs, and factor this into the design and communication of their benefit and wellbeing programmes.”
1Wellbeing at Work Barometer – Legal & General’s research was conducted by Opinium among 1,055 employees (middle managers and below) in businesses with 10-249 employees and 1,011 senior managers in business with 10-249 employees, between 13-20 May 2021.