Men who sometimes work from home ‘are the happiest’

If you consider that day nurseries in the UK can charge £70 a day per child it’s hardly surprising that unpaid carework and household chores are estimated to be worth a staggering £1 trillion – more than the whole of the manufacturing and retail industries put together.
And who takes responsibility for all that unpaid work? No surprises to learn that according to ONS figures for 2014, women carried out 26 hours of unpaid work on average per week compared to 16 hours by men. And many women would probably dispute the male average figure of 16 hours!


The home has undergone substantial change in recent years with both couples having to be wage earners in order to afford to get on the property ladder. The traditional role of the woman devoted entirely to running the home while the man works full time,  gave way to women working part or full time and frustratingly trying to juggle the demands of work both inside and outside the home.
People often have to commute long distances to their workplaces, work long hours and couples are rarely able to relax together in the evenings.  Many are anxious and feeling overstretched and their children are equally anxious if they not able to spend enough time altogether as a family. When the family is struggling, relatives and elderly neighbours living alone get overlooked and loneliness creeps into their lives.
Hence the wellbeing of the whole of society is dependant on the state and happiness of the home.
But a ‘third way’ is now gaining ground – shared responsibility or the rapidly growing demographic of the stay-at-home Dad. No longer reproached by wives for their absenteeism from the home, men who are able to redesign their work schedule to take a more prominent role at home are reporting increased levels of contentment and engagement within the family, especially when they take on equal parenting roles. A recent US study claims that Dads who wash the dishes raise more aspirational daughters.
“As a man, there is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you are at least contributing toward the physical care of your family. The best case scenario is being able to do that while at the same time spending time with them at home,” commented one blogger who has “done the entire range” – worked in an office 100% of the time, worked from home 100% of the time, and now works part time in the office, part time at home. “Dads who work from home, at least some of the time are the happiest,” he says.
While it’s generally accepted for women to rearrange their hours at work to balance home responsibilities, there’s still a bias against men doing the same.
But as the demands of an aging population add to the number of hours couples need to devote to caring for their extended families, perhaps companies will find they must provide a more flexible work schedule for both men and women if they are to retain their trusted employees.

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The home is also a “business”

By Antonio Argandoña

On 10 October the Home Renaissance Foundation held a meeting at IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain, to launch the book The Home: Multidisciplinary Reflections, which was published last March. Instead of the standard presentation of the contents of the book, this session consisted of a brief presentation and a round table discussion on the part of academics, publicity agents, professionals and parents, talking about the home as a business. The following is a brief summary of my opening presentation.

Book HRF

A business is an organisation, and the home is also an organisation, i.e. a group of people working together for some common goals that will benefit all of them, though probably for different reasons. This definition contains five key elements:

  1. The people. In a business everyone is usually, though not always, there because they want to be. Participation in the home is not always voluntary: small children, for instance, cannot decide whether or not to remain at home. What matters is that in a business and a home alike, everyone counts: the family members, those who help from within it and from outside, relations and neighbours… all of them are shareholders, directors, employees, suppliers and clients.
  2. In a business each person has his or her own reasons for being there. The employees, for example, may wish to be paid, learn, improve their career, have a good time, make friends, etc. The same is true of a family, but here it is very important that all of them are at least to some extent prepared to do things for one another.
  3. Shared objectives. In a business, the central aim is the actual existence of the business, because everyone obtains from it what they need: clients receive goods or services, the employees receive pay, training and a career, the owners receive profit. The home is an organisation with multiple purposes: reproduction, nutrition, training, care, physical and psychological security, acquisition of an identity; plus restaurant, school, hospital, playground… a place to live, develop skills and talents, grow in knowledge, capacity, build attitudes, values, and virtues… and also learn to “replicate” the organisation, i.e. form another home in due course.
  4. Intentional participation, because, in the words of a colleague of mine, “the necessary and sufficient condition for an organisation to exist in reality is that there is a set of people who are motivated to belong to that organisation, with all that their membership implies. The organisation should aim to maintain and strengthen their motivation, without which the organisation would disintegrate.” When one member starts to think that he or she would rather be somewhere else, the home begins to break up.
  5. Coordination and direction are also needed. In the context of the home this is not necessarily hierarchical, or necessarily democratic: it probably changes over time. What matters is that everyone feels involved in this coordination, each according to his or her possibilities. The baby’s involvement consists of crying, laughing, eating and dirtying its nappies, because all of that is what motivates the rest to take on their respective responsibilities.

To sum up: a home is an organisation that one is always (or almost always) part of, sometimes without explicitly deciding to be. It is a community of persons each with their own reasons for being there, but above all, with an interest in the home’s fulfilling its function and continuing to exist; and it can be replicated in new places, albeit with changes. The key of a home lies in its members’ readiness to work together with others, including people from outside, to make it a place of training in knowledge, abilities, attitudes, dispositions, values and virtues, in regard to different family members at different times. And meanwhile the home offers services to its members, which are an opportunity to live together and fulfil that particular function. The home is an excuse for living together. For that to happen, everyone needs to be prepared to do everything when the time comes: each is necessary, and each member has to find his or her role at each moment. I explained this with a phrase of my own: in the home, each member has to be ready to iron an egg or fry a shirt.

Calls for a ‘digital detox’ in the home

There’s no denying that the internet is immensely useful – connecting young people with their friends and with just a few clicks, a world of information comes to our screens. But as most of us have discovered, it comes at a price – it’s hugely addictive!

We all know people who just seem unable to look away from their devices and see so many youngsters today absorbed by their phones as they walk along the street. Their eyes become glazed and it takes a lot to peel them away from tablets, laptops or smartphones. Technology is controlling us rather than the other way round. The only way to keep it in check is a digital detox at least once a week where everyone puts away their devices and speaks to each other, before we risk turning into social recluses. And where does most training begin? Naturally, in the home – it’s where our core values are nurtured and reach fruition.  It calls for a day a week when the family sit down together and chat or go out for a walk come rain or shine, when we challenge ourselves to achieve something rather than retire to the comfort of the smartphone when the forecast doesn’t look too bright.

According to Dr Tim Elmore, Founder of ‘Growing Leaders’, an organisation dedicated to mentoring young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, parents need to stop mollycoddling their children. They have to teach youngsters to possess true “grit” if they are to survive the digital era of instant communication, where everything happens at the click of a switch and people can feel overwhelmed by the demands being made of them. Dr Elmore, whose two children both suffered severe bouts of anxiety as they were growing up even though they came from a “healthy” home, states in his book ‘Stressed Out’ that today’s adolescents are “overcommitted”, “overexposed” and “overprotected.”

“Parents have often nurtured them, coddled them, and done a much better job protecting than preparing their kids for the world that awaits them as adults. We’ve prepared the path for the child instead of the child for the path. It would be easy to assume this is only true for adolescents from very busy and affluent areas….. but it’s happening everywhere,” says Dr Elmore.

“One could argue we should be the happiest, most well-adjusted people in history with more technology, more conveniences, more stress-saving devices available than ever. Sadly we seem to be more depressed than previous generations. Times in the past were simpler and we expected to get less done during the days, we attempted less during any given day. All of the clutter and expectations are catching up on us. There are lots of things screaming at us to stimulate us –so when we are experiencing periods that are not stimulating we can feel down,” he said.

He recommends that the quickest steps children can take to maintain happy lives is to have “margin” in their days. “Those who are emotionally healthy are those who create margin in their calendar,” he says. “They schedule portions of their day to create space. They remove noise and clutter during those portions of the time. They experience solitude, quietness, simplicity. They take control of their day instead of remaining at the mercy of the busyness going on.”

According to neuroscientists, it’s when we’re bored that we can be most creative. So let’s all ‘unplug’ periodically, show more empathy and use our imagination to greater effect!

‘Generation sensible’ find contentment at home

By Rosemary Roscoe

As thousands of ‘sixth-formers’ head back to school or move on to university after a glorious summer break, it’s encouraging to hear that the majority prefer home life to hanging out with their friends.

AdolescentAccording to a recent poll of 1,000 16-18 year olds they are far more focused on their studies than indulging in drugs, alcohol and sex. Dubbed ‘Generation sensible,’ two-thirds of the teenagers surveyed said they had never had sex and 24% said they had never drunk alcohol – which may explain the sharp fall in teen pregnancies since 2007.

More than 80% of those surveyed said performing well in exams or succeeding in their chosen career was a top priority, compared with 68% who said spending time with friends was a top priority. And many admitted to spending 4-5 hours a day on social media, with work and study commitments making organising time to meet up with friends difficult.

Young people were also more likely to view time with their family as of high importance than time with their friends.

Have teenagers always secretly craved a happy home life rather than going out and getting drunk with their friends – or are the latest generation of social media savvies so well informed about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse they won’t risk going down that route?

Whatever the reason, it says something about the importance of the home for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Joanna Roughton, a 21st-century homemaker

By Ángela de Miguel

Joanna was a mother of six, wife, and journalist, who left frontline journalism to dedicate herself to her family full time.  She never regretted the move. Knowing that her home was now working better made her happy, and she knew how lucky she was. In a Homemakers Project interview, she said that her current “job” was certainly no less important than her former one.

As a journalist, she had been senior editor for Reuters in Hong Kong and Singapore, and then Head of Foreign News at Sky News in London. Only someone who has travelled the same path knows just how gripping that sort of work is. But in an editorial meeting after having her first child, she realized that her priorities were now elsewhere.

Joanna and her husband, Colin Brazier, supported Home Renaissance Foundation from the start. Convinced of the need to talk about homes and how important they are for society, they were the ones who suggested our latest study, the Global Home Index, on the values required to make a home.

For several years, Joanna’s posts on the Home Renaissance Foundation’s blog were a way of keeping in touch with her previous job. They are well worth reading – direct, touched with irony, and still keenly applicable today.

Although we worked together in the same thinktank I met Jo face to face just three or four times – a downside of teleworking. Those few meetings were gems; she really was a woman for all seasons. She won me over in the first minute of our first meeting. She always had a smile that expressed the joy of her Christian faith, she was charged with energy, and combined optimism and realism. All of these features were used by her from day to day in building the home that she captained, a-swirl with six children, horses and dogs, and a husband at the beck and call of breaking news.

She knew the pitch and how to play it. We can be sure she has left a stellar example that will be followed by her children under Colin’s guidance, and that from heaven she will continue cheering on her wonderful family with the same strength she always showed. Rest in peace, Joanna Roughton.

Smart is already on Instagram

SMART Home Management is the more practical project of Home Renaissance Foundation. SMART is a new vision for running your home.

In 2012 a group of people became aware of the need for homemakers to see their role as a profession, and of the demand for developing the skills necessary to become competent and to avoid being overwhelmed by the work of the home. To this end, SMART Home Management was set up to provide holistic courses that offer training in every aspect of the home, from family relationships to de-cluttering a room.

A total of 315 women have participated in the SMART workshops, learning new skills as well as how to apply these in their own homes and in the wider community.

So now, thanks to social media, we wish to share with you this interesting initiative through Instagram, the most visual social network.

You will find plenty of advice on Instagram about order in the home, tidying, cooking or cleaning and we think that while they are full of useful tips, there is a need for something more structured.

Most of the tasks and activities of the home are concerned with education and the vision of the home. We believe in good management and the well-being of all the members of the home, which makes such a big impact on our lives – so let’s take good care of it and learn how to manage it well!

If you have an Instagram account, please, follow us and share it with your contacts!

Judge for yourself! 

This is very simple. You don’t need anyone to tell you whether or not you’re managing your home well. You already know.

untidy

Open the door, observe and answer the following questions:

  1. Do you and your partner form a solid, respectful union, apart from the inevitable bickering that most couples succumb to? Are you capable of solving the day to day problems that arise in the home and tackling together the more serious issues?
  2. Do you both share the responsibilities and household tasks? The amount you each do doesn’t necessarily have to be equal in percentage terms but simply the distribution of tasks that best work for you in your home.
  3. Does communication flow well between all the members of the household?
  4. What is not working? Think about it without kidding yourself. Can you solve those problems with the participation and collaboration of your children? Don’t forget that the home belongs to all those who inhabit it, although adults have more responsibilities than younger members of the household. Remember that teamwork is always the best solution!
  5. As parents, and remembering yourselves as children, do you feel that your children are growing up in a true home?
  6. Is there anything in your home that you think could be improved? It doesn’t consist in thinking of an idyllic home as an example, because all of us would want a bigger or better-located house, with more light, more rooms or a larger kitchen or with a butler to serve us! Simply think of your home –  is that the place where all its members (parents, children, grandparents) are loved for what they are and receive the necessary and basic attention to grow and develop as human beings?
  7. Finally, do you think that your home is that place you always look forward to returning to?

If the answer to this last question is yes, congratulations. You’re building that home that everybody deserves and many don’t have.

If the answer is no, don’t feel overwhelmed, everything has a solution, it’s just looking for someone to guide us in what we are not good at and trying to improve it. There are no magic formulas, those tips that work in some houses, might not work in others. The key is to detect and recognise that something is wrong and get the proper diagnosis.

After all, the home is the first community we belong to and the most important company of our life. Let’s take good care of it!

The culture of the workplace has its roots in the home

By Rosemary Roscoe

I’m not normally given to public airings about private matters but I can’t help speaking about this one.
I’ve recently been treated for colon cancer at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, one of the best performing NHS hospitals in the country – and you can see why.
I was given an appointment at the hospital just over a week after my GP requested fast track treatment. A few days later I had a colonoscopy and soon after the biopsy results came through the operation went ahead.
Thanks to the superb skills of a leading Consultant Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgeon and the medical team who performed the challenging 7 hour partial colectomy, the operation was a great success. I was discharged after 3 days and almost back to my normal self within a couple of weeks.

During those few days recovering on the ward I was impressed by how graciously doctors, nurses, health care assistants and physiotherapists attended to every need of some very poorly patients, treating them with such dignity. And their willingness to help each other was reassuring to witness. You would hear someone call out “I’m going to need help moving my patient” and immediately help was at hand. Staying in bed too long was actively discouraged for your own good, with the enhanced recovery team gently coaxing you out of it and into a chair the next day and later on inviting you to walk along the corridor to get the circulation moving.

The nursing staff were constantly monitoring your blood pressure, temperature and oxygen level, administering drips and painkillers or antibiotics, changing dressings and checking how much you had drunk so far that day. Without exception they were professional and polite and remained cheerful throughout their 12 hour shifts. The healthcare assistants were also wonderful – attentively filling up jugs of water, offering hot drinks, asking what you would like to eat, giving bed baths, emptying catheters and drains, putting clean sheets on the bed.

The medical staff appeared to not get a minute’s peace – one nurse worked all weekend while her husband looked after their young child and did night shifts during the week to save on childcare costs. One of the nurses on night shift was heavily pregnant and another worked permanent nights – and yet they were so positive and self-giving.

Their wages are low, hours are long, work often arduous but they choose to work for the NHS. Why? Because they know that what they’re doing is worthwhile and they are people imbued with a deep sense of service who genuinely care about the welfare of others.

Many of the staff were of African or Asian descent and you could tell by the respectful way they spoke to everyone around them that they had come from loving homes where they had been taught patience and understanding and the need to help others. The nurturing that stems from the home clearly must influence the way people work and make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.

Our book is already on sale

The Home BookHRF has much pleasure in informing you that our book ‘The Home’ edited by our Director Antonio Argandoña has been published.

It is the first major work which takes the home as a centre of analysis for global social problems. Experts from a variety of fields reveal the multidimensional reality of the home and its role in societies worldwide. This unique book serves as a basis for action by proposing global legislative, political and institutional initiatives with the home in mind.

We are bringing out this interesting publication about the home in conjunction with the prestigious Edward Elgar Publishing who offer a print edition and an e-book through Google Play.

1) The book information page is here

2) The official online ebook version will be here

Please find here a PDF promotional flyer announcing this book, which you are welcome to distribute to friends and colleagues, or post on personal webpages. The Edward Elgar Publishing Marketing Department will be very happy to set up special offers for any groups or associations you belong to, to help further promote the book – do let us know if this is something we can help with.

We would encourage you to mention the book on any blogs or other social media channels you use.

Thank you very much and enjoy reading this book!

What is HRF?

We would like to start by telling you what HRF is from scratch. This does not mean that all we have said to date is invalid, we simply want to restate. For 12 years, we have generated a lot of information resulting from our research, and we now want to make it available more widely. We also want to take advantage of our new, improved website and we are bringing it to your attention so that you can use it when necessary. Let’s begin!

1. What is HRF? An International Think Tank based in London. Sometimes, another immediate question follows: What is a think tank? A laboratory of ideas that launches lines of thought into society.

2. What is HRF’s aim? We seek a ‘social revolution’ in the home environment or as our slogan says: we want to renew the culture of the home.

3. What does that mean? Well, homes are very important for society and many people have neglected them for some time, so we want to encourage people to return to giving homes all the attention and care they deserve.

4. How are you going to achieve this ‘social revolution’? We have two clear lines of action: theory and practice.
The theory is simply to demonstrate through research with academic institutions and prestigious disciplines, the importance for society of the work involved in running a home, for example, for the health of its members or the global economy. For this reason, we do research and organize Experts Meetings, Symposiums, Academic Conferences or Policy Events. We think it is the most appropriate way to put the issue on the public agenda and open the dialogue with policymakers.
The practical part is what allows us to influence the reality. Based on the information obtained in the research we have conducted and knowing people with expertise in the ‘day to day’ of the home, we train all those who want to learn about or want to improve, the management of their home to build a happy home little by little.

5. And why do you think a think tank like yours is necessary? Simply because the figures show the following:

– Increase in mental disorders in children
– Increase in malnutrition
– Increase in the number of grandparents living in care homes
– Reduction in families who eat home-cooked food
– Increase in the number of hours children spend alone in front of the television or other screens
– Fall in reading among the younger population
– Reduction in the time that parents spend with their children
– The difficulty of work/life balance.

This scenario could make us feel very guilty or push us to blame society in general, but it would be useless. The good thing about stopping to analyse and observe the problem is that we can diagnose it and try to solve it.

Neither the migration of women into work, nor the appearance of new technologies, nor other external factors are the problem, they are simply new actors with whom we will be living for the foreseeable future. And we should simply adapt to the circumstances, and train as well as possible, to use all those new resources in the most efficient way in the management of our homes.

And that’s why HRF is working every day. To detect problems and try to offer solutions through dissemination, training and dialogue.

Now, we hope you understand what HRF is doing. Then, if it seems appropriate, let people know, tell all those who think they may need a little help in the management of their home. And tell us what aspect or area of the home you are worried about, and we will try to investigate it, to demonstrate to the world the importance of the work involved in building a home.