There are many reasons a person can be a caregiver. Those raising young kids, and adult children looking after elderly parents, are two of the most common caregiving roles.
Johns Hopkins Medicine defines caregivers as “individuals who care for members of their family of origin, but also refers to those who care for their family of choice.” The publication adds that those attending to neighbors, close friends, and members of a congregation all fall under the category of caregiver.
The broad nature of this definition ensures that practically everyone has been, will be, or currently is a caregiver. As an employer, it’s important to keep this in mind as you navigate individuals who are anxious, stressed, or exhausted at work due to their caregiving responsibilities.
Rather than resort to reactive consequences to shortcomings caused by the demands of looking after others, here are a few tips to help you proactively support employees who are in a caregiving role.
1. Provide Resources
One of the best ways to create a support system for your caregivers is to create a bank of passive resources that they can go to when they have a need. This should start with a clear, easy-access way for caregivers to find company-specific benefits that relate to caregiving, such as details on PTO or scheduling.
And you don’t have to stop with internal resources. You can create a library of external resources that streamline the caregiving process in specific ways.
For example, the Pintas & Mullins injury law firm has created a comprehensive nursing home checklist that can help anxious adult children of aging parents decide if a facility is appropriate. Care.com is a reputable way to find a babysitter in a pinch. By setting up a bank of useful resources, you provide a range of lifelines that your employee-caregivers can use when they need them.
2. Strive to Strike a Balance
It can be hard walking the line between maintaining the personal privacy of your employees and offering them help. You can create support systems and offer resources. But at the same time, you can’t make people take advantage of what is offered. Additionally, you can’t ask overly-invasive questions or request sensitive information or details about someone’s personal affairs.
As you look for ways to prioritize support for your company’s caregivers, remember to maintain a balanced approach. Put every solution you come up with through this filter. Is it genuinely helpful while maintaining privacy? If not, you may want to look for alternative options.
3. Support Mental, Physical, and Emotional Health
Caregiving can take an immense toll on the mental and emotional health of the one providing the care. Family Caregiver Alliance reports that caregiving can have a number of negative results, including stress, depression, and frustration.
In addition, the demands of caregiving can often lead to a decrease in an individual’s own basic health needs. A person might struggle to attend physicals or take the time for basic self-care.
As an employer, you can help in each of these areas by enabling employees to invest in their own health and well-being. You can provide access to counselors for mental health support. You can offer an appropriate number of sick days, too. Plus, encourage employees to schedule physicals during their work hours (as long as they plan ahead).
4. Embrace Flexibility
A rigid and uncompromising workflow can wreak havoc on a caregiver. When employees have no flexibility at work, it forces their professional responsibilities to compete with other critical things. These can include medical schedules or picking a child up from school.
When a company demands that a caregiver prioritize work over other things, they alienate them and undermine their support system. Of course, you also need your employees to remain efficient and productive and to meet their deadlines.
Fortunately, there are ways to introduce a degree of flexibility to the workplace that makes it easier for caregivers to adapt to your needs and work with you to achieve goals. For example, flexible schedules and remote work are proven professional tools that combine flexibility and productivity in a wide variety of work environments. In some instances, you can even use asynchronous work (i.e., minimizing the need for all employees to be working at the same time) to keep work flowing without forcing employees into the nine-to-five mold.
Supporting Caregivers in the Workplace
As an employer, you aren’t running a charity. Nor is your primary interest your employee’s personal responsibilities. In fact, you need to maintain a certain degree of distance from those things (see tip 2).
Still, it’s difficult to overestimate the impact that comes from proactively supporting and working with those with viable external responsibilities, such as caring for a friend, loved one, or community member in need. When you tactfully support caregivers on your staff, you develop trust and loyalty. You encourage those individuals to respond with similar support to your organization’s needs.
This introduces a symbiotic element into the workplace that is more effective than rigid work schedules, unempathetic responses, or uncompromising deadlines could ever accomplish.