"Reconciling family and career is not something that is only on the website, but something that we practice"

Dr. Dieter Dohmen, founder of the parents' hotline, talks about compatibility from an employer's point of view

Your child coughs and the article still has to be finished. Would you rather go to the doctor or ask for a postponement for the delivery? Employees with children have a hard time, especially in times of a pandemic, because in addition to their everyday tasks, they are under constant stress from corona. How can employers accommodate employees and support the compatibility of family and job?

"Reconciling family and career is not something that is only on the website, but something that we practice"

We spoke with Dr. Dieter Dohmen, himself a father of a foster son and an employer. He has headed the Research Institute for Educational and Social Economics (FiBS) in Berlin for over 25 years and, since the end of March, has also been in charge of the start-up Parents' Hotline. The majority of the employees in both companies are women.

"Kids have come to the office, too"

Dr. Dieter Dohmen has been developing family-friendly working models together with his employees for years - because every family situation is different. It is important to him that both sides can react flexibly to any changes that occur. For example, the six-year-old daughter of an employee has already come to the office. And has not only occupied herself there with her mother's I-pad, but has also played with the boss. "We don't check whether the child- sick days are already used up," says Dohmen. "We try to keep the whole thing as unbureaucratic as possible." Working from home is also no problem in the scientific working environment at FiBS or in the online editorial office of the parents' hotline. "But if there is time pressure, of course someone else has to be able to fill in if someone else fails. The important thing is that this willingness is there to do so. Ultimately, the situation is no different if someone from the team has regular holidays, then everyone can handle it. We have set up small teams that organize and coordinate themselves on their own responsibility so that the necessary or arising work can be done This is something that is also possible in other companies without any problems.

"You've been doing this for decades, and then you come across all the reconciling things you already do."

Since the 1990s, the educational researcher and entrepreneur has been dealing with the topic of compatibility. Since he is a father himself, he knows the situation of having to reconcile both areas. However, he has never particularly advertised the offer he makes to his employees: "You've been doing this for decades and then you come across all the things you've already done to reconcile the two and realize how innovative or progressive you are," emphasizes Dohmen.

"I care about the staff!"

But what is his reason for seeking compatibility? "Parents are often very well organized and motivated: they try to do everything they can to fulfil their work duties," says Dohmen, describing his impression. "In addition, the employees are important to me!" The priority is always to keep up the work routine. This is not a classic give and take, because there is a leap of faith. It is important that parents work conscientiously and that working hours are working hours. "But in many respects this is no difference to other employees", says Dohmen. The difference lies in the clearer framework conditions and that in some areas they are less flexible because of their children. Often, however, parents are more flexible and sometimes also more responsible in other areas.

Trustful, straightforward communication and interest in the work

According to Dohmen, a trustworthy, straightforward communication from both sides is important for the cooperation. It is necessary to know the family circumstances: "If I am informed, for example, that relatives are in hospital because of Corona or that the child is sick, then I know about it and then I can prepare for it," says Dohmen. "Or if you've had a bad night's sleep and seem unfriendly at work, you can communicate that and the others know about it: "Okay, it's not the work or me, it's the lack of sleep or other circumstances!

But it is also important for him as an employer to see the interest of the employees in the work. Then it is also possible to talk at any time, for example, about reducing working hours. "Then one will surely find a compromise. For example, you could say: "We can talk about it after the current project is finished," explains Dohmen.

Lost trust in employees also burdens employers

Difficult situations are those in which employees deregister because of childbearing obligations and the work is then not done at all or is left lying around for a long time. Or when employees report sick but are not sick at all: "When employees try to take a lukewarm bath, the trust between employer and employee dwindles," says Dohmen. "But this applies in principle and not only to parents." It is also problematic if one has the feeling that negative basic attitudes are transferred from one person to another. These are moments when you become overly suspicious and think: "No, I won't do that anymore," says Dohmen. But that's not the rule.

Corona parental allowance does not replace loss of salary

Especially now, in times of Corona, it is important to the entrepreneur that parents can stay in the company and are not excluded: "The Corona parental allowance does not replace loss of salary," says Dohmen. Parents should be able to reconcile their different interests. Guaranteeing additional days of child-sickness is no problem for him: "They have already been guaranteed," says the educational researcher. Because: "Compatibility is not something that is only written on our website, but something that we practice


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