The Discussion Around Yahoo's Decision Bothers Me


The Discussion Around Yahoo's Decision Bothers Me

work-life-balance-mdOn February 22, news broke that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO, announced to her employees that they no longer could work from home--everyone must report to the office.

Since then, I've read several articles and watched several pundits discussing this decision. And, in the majority of the conversations about Yahoo's new policy, the focus is on working parents. It seems that most believe work and life balance and flexible work arrangements exists solely to help parents.

Certainly, parents needs balance and flexibility.

And so do working family caregivers.

I work from home because I work for myself. I've also worked full-time jobs to keep my business running, most recently from 2005 until 2010 for a large media company based in Chicago. In that position, I couldn't work from home. I had colleagues who could and did. And, each time a colleague worked from home, it was due to a caregiving situation.

One colleague worked remotely during this wife's last weeks and then again when his mom needed care and again after his sister died. (This co-worker had a terrible few years.) Another colleague worked from home when his mom sank into a deep depression after his father's death.

The caregiving experience requires you to manage a series of crises. Each crisis can be extensive, complicated and exhausting. And, they all take place during business hours. The crisis doesn't stop when the workplace opens for business.

My dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2004. His cancer is chronic; he has reoccurrences which require treatment. Recently, his cancer came back and with concerns it had spread. My parents enjoy an active lifestyle so require little from me. I drive them more often now (all three of us want me to be the driver). But when it comes to the doctors appointments, it's imperative I attend with them. My dad wears a hearing aide but that doesn't mean he can hear and comprehend what his urologist says when he gives my dad test results about his cancer.

This past month, we had three doctors appointments to discuss test results. It seemed his cancer had spread to his liver and lungs. Oh, no, it may just have spread to his lungs. Oh, no, it's just in his bladder. It's been a roller coaster. All taking place on a weekday afternoon. We hear bad news and then go about our day. But we're exhausted.

I have the flexibility to make attending my dad's appointments my priority. My younger sister thanked me last week: "I'm so grateful you can be with Mom and Dad," she said. "It would be impossible for me to take off from work to go with."

I can only imagine having to ask my boss for time off for these appointments and then returning to work after hearing that the cancer may have spread. With caregiving, there's always a next crisis. Sometimes, it's a crisis about what's happened--like a hospitalization. And, sometimes, it's a crisis about how it feels--like trying to absorb news about life ending.

A 2012 report released by AARP found that 42% of U.S. workers provided unpaid eldercare for a family member or friend during the previous five years. About 49% of workers expect to do so in the coming five years. Gallup research estimates American businesses lose more than $25 billion annually in productivity from absenteeism among full-time working caregivers.

A forward-thinking company will look at these numbers and make plans now to address how caregiving responsibilities will impact the workplace. In the near future, our business world will be faced with the problem of empty cubicles as employees manage the ongoing crisis of caregiving.

Ask any family caregiver--staying employed is critical because of the financial needs and because a career can be a break from the caregiving responsibilities. More important, they love working--they are responsible, loyal, creative, tenacious. But, to keep a job, a working family caregiver needs flexibility.

Because you never know when the last crisis has arrived. And, when it does, you will regret working for a corporation who requires that you work from your cube rather than in the seat next to your caree's bed.

Additional Articles
--Watch my Life Line video, Our Most Important Work Happens Outside the Cube
--Watch my webinar, Managing the Working Family Caregiver

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