Now’s the Time for Employers to Act

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Now’s the Time for Employers to Act

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I’ve been thinking about how employers can support their caregiving employees now. So much has changed so quickly that our suggestions on how employers support their working family caregivers must adjust, too. We need to think beyond the suggestions we once offered. Working from home will become the norm. Leaders are already engaged in conversations about their employees' medical emergencies as they worry about ensuring employees who could spread a virus stay at home.

Now’s the time for employers to act. Here’s how:

Every Employee Needs a Family Emergency Plan
Coronavirus has proved what so many of us have already experienced: A family medical emergency can happen to anyone at any time. When employees put plans in place, the workplace can continue and the employee can focus on what’s most important. We can no longer act like a life-changing medical event happens to someone else’s family. We all must be prepared, just in case.

Every Manager Needs Training to Manage Emotional Discussions
During a caregiving experience, we arrive at work with the honorable intention to do our very best. Unfortunately, we often bring the difficult emotions of caregiving with us. When we need time off or a flexible work arrangement, we head to our manager’s office. While we ask for what we need, we may share the details of a gut-wrenching experience impacting ourselves and our families. No MBA school teaches how to manage these conversations. Managers need tools to provide support, find solutions and avoid burn-out from these difficult discussions. Employees need to receive support, solutions and acceptance that their natural, normal emotional responses won’t impact their careers.

Every Employee Needs Time for Caregiving and Grieving
We can no longer work without breaks because our well-being cannot continue unless we get breaks. In addition, the idea that we need to work through tough family situations will no longer work. We understand the value of family and the risk to our families when work always remains the top priority. An employer that now embraces more generous paid time off and a more humane bereavement leave will flourish. That’s the company we want to work for -- the company that cares and shows it.

Every Workplace Needs Onsite Caregiving Support
Many employers offer off-site resources through Employee Benefit Programs and Work/Life Benefit programs. Now, we’ll need onsite help for employees caring for family members because we will be doing more and more of the care ourselves. We already had a shortage of direct care workers available to work in senior care communities and for home care agencies. I fear that shortage will worsen as a result of the coronavirus. In addition, many adult day centers have closed. How long before they open? Without the option of local community resources, we’ll be relying on each for help and support. With a Caregiving Support Program in each workplace, employees can connect with colleagues who can help them with plans, decisions and strategies. The Caregiving Support Program consultants can help every employee create a Family Emergency Plan, empower every manager with skills to lead effective conversations, lead caregiving and grief support groups, and keep the workplace up-to-date on which resources can help. For too long, we did it on our own. The complexity of today’s world means we need a community effort within our workplace to keep working.

Every Employer Needs Healthy Employees
I often think about responses in last year’s Working and Family Caregiver Survey. In the survey, employees shared how they coped with their stress in the workplace. They cried in the meditation room. They listened to calming music on their phones. They used essential oils to relax. When we’re stressed, we’re not well. We need better, more effective ways for employees to care for themselves as they care for family members. The shift in health comes from the shift in perspective. When employers now reach the important conclusion that every employee is already a caregiving employee, then they change the game for everyone. When we decide that caregiving impacts everyone, then the tension around caregiving situations in the workplace eases. We talk about it. We support each other around it. We treat it like the fact of life it is. Just the normalcy around what we normally do will keep us healthier. When we’re healthy so is the business.

We want to continue to work. Our salary and benefits are important for ourselves and our families. We also enjoy the break from caregiving that our work provides which is why we bring solutions, like calming music and essential oils, to work so we can work. We want to contribute to our workplace team, to create and produce and accomplish.

We have so much to contribute and want to keep that opportunity to make a difference to our economy while we make a difference in our families. When the employer acts to make a difference, we all benefit.

What would you add to my list?

Resources

Corporate Caregiving Solutions

Our Loneliness Is Emotional, Not Locational

Full Homes, Empty Cubes (2014)

What If We Assume Everyone Already Is? (2017)

Tips to Manage the “What If’s” Including Coronavirus

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