Full Homes, Empty Cubes?


Full Homes, Empty Cubes?

building-91228_640This fall, I visited several companies to either provide a seminar or participate in a health fair on behalf of various Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or Work/Life benefit companies. I went to a companies from a variety of industries--tech, service, manufacturing. It's fascinating to observe a company's culture, which develops not only from the management but also from the industry.

When I'm presenting or participating in a health fair, I also have an opportunity to speak with both employees and human resource managers. During one of these conversations this fall, I started to wonder: When will we have homes full of employees who also care for a family members and offices full of empty cubes?

The tide is turning and turning into a tidal wave. We know that our aging demographics mean we'll have more individuals who need care. The evolution of how we treat a disease process means that we live much longer with chronic illness with the help of a family member who provides care. A caregiving experience could include caring for a parent with age-related frailties and a spouse with a chronic illness and a child with special needs.

A 2012 report released by AARP found that 42% of U.S. workers provided unpaid eldercare for a family member or friend over the last five years. And, 49% expect to do so in the coming five years. What if we included all caregiving situations (caring for a spouse, a sibling, a child)? Imagine what that figure could be--more than half of U.S. workers involved in a caregiving experience.

Caregiving, we know, doesn't exist within a schedule. We don't just provide care from 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and then head off to work to be fully presented in our jobs. And, yet, our work does exist within a schedule and a schedule that extends into longer hours. Caregiving is a 24/7 job. More and more, our work is becoming a 60-hour-a-week commitment. How do we do both? Caregiving requires flexibility and yet work demands we stay on task.

The telecommuting trend is becoming more and more business as usual. I met more employees this fall who work from home than I ever have--and I've been speaking on behalf of EAPs and work/life benefit companies since 1999.

But, what if you work in an industry -- like teaching and manufacturing -- that doesn't allow for flexible work hours and telecommuting? Or, what if you are low man on the totem pole so can't take advantage of flex hours or telecommuting?

If you work on a line and a strict shift schedule, how do you take time off for your caree's doctor's appointment? If you teach, how do you manage a mid-day caregiving crisis? What if you just started a job and your caree has a sudden decline?

I think how we do business is going to be significantly impacted by our caregiving roles. Companies slow to adopt telecommuting and flex work schedules will find themselves facing a work stoppage -- simply because too many employees will be outside the office managing their caregiving experience. Companies that understand what's coming -- more and more of their employees will be managing their career and a caregiving experience that can last a decade or longer -- and work now to find solutions will keep their customers (and their business) because they'll have their employees.

What do you think? Do you have an opportunity to work from work? Do you work for a company that allows little flexibility for how and where you work? Share your experiences in our comments section, below.


Caregiving Research

Managing the Working Family Caregiver

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When I was laid off my full time job I turned to sewing doll clothes and selling them on ebay (I never knew there was such a market for high end designer doll clothes until my sister suggested sewing them. Once I was hired back to the same company on a part time basis I began working from home with only an occasional visit to the office for over 7 years now, mostly part time graphics and web design. It is a very small business and my boss is very flexible and knows I work better alone anyhow. I also pick up a few freelance jobs occasionally. This type of work readily works well at home.\r\n\r\nWith all our parents gone now, I suddenly began thinking about my own future and having concerns of not wanting my kids to go through the caregiving as we did. I wonder if my partner and I will stay health and be able to be independent. I'd love to go like my grandfather. He was out painting the barn a few days before he died in his mid 80s. Just the way he would have wanted it--active with a sound mind until the end.


I scaled back my work to very part time - I teach my college classes two days a week and do all the grading and preparation at home. So I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. But the hours I spend in the classroom are absolutely inflexible. There is no system for getting a substitute, so if I miss class, my students do as well. I've only had to miss class once in three years because I move heaven and earth - put responsibilities on my husband, or this summer, paid help - to be there. But working from home is problematic too - sometimes it's hard to protect the time I need for grading and preparation, and unfortunately, I'm not a person who can work late at night.

John Parks-Coleman

While I was still Active Duty, there were some of my former \"leaders\" that would make comments_mysql about me, when I had to bring Yvonne to appointments. What those \"leaders\" didn't know was that there are ears and eyes everywhere; and, what you say and do will come back on you in the form of karma (my Brigade Commander found out about it, and it reflected on the Evaluation Reports). \r\n\r\nIn my current situation, I am actively trying to find employment; however, it seems a little bleak right now. After a discussion on this very subject this morning, with Yvonne, we decided on putting my resume back out there. The costs of healthcare and prescriptions have skyrocketed; and, the weight of a Family Budget vs Family Needs is swinging in a direction that we can no longer handle.