COVID-19 disrupted the carefully balanced lives of caregivers and their support systems. As time goes on, many organizations are returning back to in-person work environments. But what does this mean for caregivers with duties to manage children and aging parents? More particularly, how has this impacted them?
In this article, let’s go through the insights and recommendations from Alvin Goh, Executive Director at SHRI, and Stephanie Nash, Chief People Officer at Circles.Life, on how organizations can support employees juggling between work and caregiving responsibilities in our most recent fireside chat.
According to Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), there has been an increasing number of caregivers falling in the “sandwich generation” — those between the ages of 40 and 65 simultaneously caring for their children, spouses, and parents — who often find themselves torn between their responsibilities at work and at home. What are some ways organizations can better support these caregivers in the workplace?
We have people who are resisting that change, others who are embracing it, and others who are somewhat mixed in emotion. Leaders need to be thinking about demonstrating empathy, offering flexibility, and recognizing that each of us are in our own unique situation.
For managers, engage in one-to-one conversations, ask questions, listen deeply to what you hear and be willing to take action based on what you have heard. Genuine willingness and empathy will create a forum and environment where people really feel there is trust, authenticity, genuine care and respect for their circumstances that they need to be available for and respond to in order to be their best selves at home and at work.
A survey by EngageRocket in 2021 showed that 30% of caregivers with school-going children and high workload declared being burnout, indicating mental health struggles. If not taken care of, this may take a toll on their productivity at work. HR professionals have taken the lead on well-being and engrained it within their people strategies to help create a workplace that works. But how can organizations better assess the well-being of employees?
Well-being can be somewhat nebulous in certain ways, and it certainly means different things to different people - e.g. physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc. Therefore, when we think about how we practice well-being or how we create an environment of well-being, we really need to think about it like a skill set. Just like how we create competency models and proficiency levels to assess skills, well-being is similar in that way.
Some suggestions by Alvin and Stephanie:
✔️ Building well-being check-ins into team meetings, demonstrate that we care, we are asking and we are learning together
✔️ Ensure that employees have available resources, curate something that is available online and it does not have to be expensive
✔️ Creating a buddy system where one makes a commitment to another and there is that accountability
✔️ Wellbeing coach in the workplace - it can be anyone, not just a business leader, who can spot certain signs and quickly intervene when needed
✔️ Better manpower planning where we can elevate and redesign certain jobs (e.g. farming out roles to contractors, gig workers and part-timers)
In times of global and personal crisis, the risk of burnout is greater, making it increasingly important that leaders recognize signs and symptoms. Organizations need bullet-proof managers with the gumption to address fears, anxieties and vulnerabilities head-on and early. What can HR do to support managers better?
There is a cycle to this. Burnout, fatigue, not feeling supported and not feeling safe, whether it's physical or psychological, will affect our mental well-being and therefore affect our choices. With that, it will also affect our decisions and our attention to detail. There are a lot of research and data out there that talks about the cost associated with well-being and looking after individuals. It's billions and billions of dollars. Part of what we need to do is to define that business case, remind our managers there is a business case, there is cost, show them the data and evidence, show them what good looks like and outline for them the consequences of not taking this seriously.
If you had one tip for leaders in terms of supporting their employees to find the balance, what would it be?
Set boundaries for yourself as a leader and empower your employees to do the same. Setting boundaries is the key to balancing work and personal life because it is all blurred. When we demonstrate as leaders to our employees that we're listening, we care, we're taking action, etc. It is an authentic way to role model and demonstrates genuine care and empathy.