Associate Principal, Advisory
5 Ways to Juggle Caregiving and Working
It’s become a hidden, but enormous, issue: some 73% of employees now have caregiving responsibilities, according to a recent survey. Employees are not just caring for children, but elderly parents too.
A separate survey found that, during the last five years, employees caring for elderly parents often had to work remotely, change or reduce work hours, use paid caregiving leave, or quit their job altogether. More than half (53%) of employees age 40 to 49 and 36% of all workers age 40 and older are caregivers for an adult, typically a partner/spouse or parent.
To be sure, COVID-19 and remote work have made it easier for employees to open up about their caregiving responsibilities. Virtual meetings have given colleagues glimpses into our personal lives, says Korn Ferry Advance coach Frances Weir. “Getting to know more about one another’s individual situations builds affiliation,” she says. Still, there are challenges as well as effective ways to address them.
Be a team player.
On the days you come into the office, make a point of underscoring your dedication to your colleagues. “When you’re there, be there and be a true team member,” says Alyson Federico, a Korn Ferry Advance coach.
Find ways to help your colleagues. “Maybe you start work earlier or later than others so you can cover more time zones globally,” Weir says. “Maybe you step in for a colleague who has to leave at 5 PM for their own caregiving responsibilities.”
Focus on delivering results, says Korn Ferry Advance coach Tiffinee Swanson. “Ideally, employees should be measured by how well they meet agreed-upon performance expectations, not by how much or where they work,” she says. Swanson also recommends steering clear of office gossip. Instead, she says, find allies who support and champion you at work.
Give yourself grace.
Recognize that you can’t do everything. “We only get 24 hours in a day, so focus on how to manage your priorities according to the most urgent and important things in your life at the moment,” Swanson says.
Don’t forget about the importance of self-care. “Start your day with something that is for you and only you, such as sitting down for an uninterrupted cup of coffee, taking your dog for a walk, or spending 5 minutes on whatever makes you feel like you,” Weir says.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise, Swanson says. “If you’re not already prioritizing sleep, diet, and exercise, find a way to do so,” she says. For instance, consider at-home meal delivery, scheduling walking meetings, or even purchasing a sit-to-stand desk add-on to increase activity.
Be honest with your boss.
“Acknowledge your role as caregiver, and the time and energy it takes,” Weir says. Let your manager or colleagues know about what’s happening with your elderly parent or young child, especially if it has the potential to impact your work.
Ask about benefits.
Overwhelmed caregivers might want to speak with the Employee Assistance Program for support, Federico says. In addition, more companies are offering benefits that help employees find and, in some cases, help pay for day care or elderly care. For instance, if your company offers a flexible spending plan, you can put away pretax dollars to pay for these expenses.
Identify a support team.
Finding a support network is critical for people with caregiver duties, Swanson says. “This can help to normalize many of the feelings and challenges that caregivers experience, and help them to see they are not alone,” she says.
Once, while her husband was on a work trip, Federico recalls, she had to stay late at work when she was supposed to pick up her daughters from two different schools. Realizing she wasn’t going to get to either school in time, Federico called another parent and asked them to pick up her older daughter. Then she called her younger daughter’s preschool and explained her situation. Federico recommends maintaining regular communication with everyone involved in caring for your kids or elderly parents. “You will be surprised by how many people will have your back, as long as you communicate,” she says.
For more information, contact Korn Ferry Advance.