Working full time while caring for another individual full time is a difficult situation that most people endure at least once in their lifetime. In the United States in 2022, 73 percent of employees had some type of current caregiving responsibility, whether as a parent or as a relative of an elderly person. In the European Union, about 80 percent of long-term care is provided by informal caretakers. In Canada, caregivers make up 35 percent of the workforce. These people are all individuals with regular responsibilities, and adding on caretaking responsibilities impacts their day-to-day lives.
What does caregiving look like?
Caregiving can look like a variety of things depending on the situation. The most common tasks that caregivers help out with are assisting a relative with shopping, picking up medications, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and providing transportation. In some situations, caretakers help provide other, more basic life tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. The average caregiver spends about 20 hours a week providing some kind of care, and the average American works about 34.4 hours per week. Additionally, caregivers often find themselves leaving work early or taking frequent breaks throughout the day to bring their relatives to doctor’s appointments, make calls, or drive them around during normal business hours.
Most importantly, caregiving adds an extra layer of stress and anxiety for the people performing these tasks on top of their regular workload. According to Caregivers Canada, about $1.3 billion is lost annually in the Canadian workforce productivity due to caregiving commitments. Taking on a caregiving role is like taking on another full-time job, and without the proper support from their employers, it’s easy for these employees to fall victim to stress and anxiety and lose the work-life balance they once had.
Who are the caretakers?
Caretakers can be people in all walks of life, and the people that they care for can be of all different ages. In the United States, millennials currently make up a full 25 percent of caregivers. While women are typically thought of as caregivers in society, men now constitute 40 percent of family caregivers. Whether these people are parents who have the responsibility of providing for their children or adults caring for their elderly parents, it’s important that they are aware of resources that can help them and feel the support from their employers at all times.
How can employers support their caregiver employees?
According to Caregivers Canada, “executive-level leadership is imperative for creating a culture where caregivers feel comfortable discussing their work-life balance concerns.” There are many different ways that employers can provide a supportive and practical environment for their caregiver employees, including practical support, like flexible paid and unpaid leaves, and emotional support, such as becoming aware of the situation and giving them resources that can help them.
The most important thing that an employer can do to help their caregiver employees is to make themselves aware of the situation, their responsibilities, the amount of time it takes out of their week, and how it might affect their work. Then, inform their managers and their co-workers of the situation so that they know how to properly support the caregiver as well. It’s important to remember that the majority of caregivers don’t see themselves that way—they just see themselves as daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and parents. They don’t necessarily realize the impact that their caregiving responsibilities have on their work. As an employer, show them that they are caregivers, and let them know that they are not alone in the journey they are enduring.
Another thing that employers can do to support their employee caregivers is provide flexible working environments. When possible, depending on the resources provided, a great option for those that are employee caregivers is remote working. Since the pandemic, remote working has become much more popular, and flexibility in a work schedule can save them time from commuting, money on gas, and overall make them feel more at ease with their daily tasks.
Lastly, it is important as an employer to provide resources for your employers that can help them with their daily caregiving tasks. Employee wellbeing companies are a great resource for employers because they provide mental support, such as counseling and therapies; physical support, such as personal training; and practical support, such as child care options. All three of these kinds of support would be beneficial to a caregiver trying to balance work, life, and their caregiving responsibilities.
As an employer, it is of the utmost responsibility to ensure the comfort and wellbeing of employees. Providing these levels of support for employee caregivers is a great step to making their lives easier and making their work more effective.