For many family caregivers, work is often a place of respite from the demands of caring for their family member or friend. This is especially true when they are able to talk about their caregiving responsibilities at work and when there are flexible options that allow them to respond to the emergencies or periodic intense caregiving demands.
“Coming to work and speaking with my colleagues does help.” (Faye Ferguson. 2001. Spotlight on Family Caregivers at Camosun College. Living Well, 9(1), p. 1-2.)
“Seeing the article (on family caregivers) in the Newsletter was really helpful. It felt good to know that my employer was aware of and interested in employees’ roles as a family caregiver.” (Statement by staff after an article appeared in College newsletter.).
Family caregivers repeatedly tell researchers that the invisibility of their caregiving role in the work place is a source of additional strain. Our experience here at the Family Caregivers’ Network Society is that when family caregivers can talk freely about their caregiving role with their colleagues and supervisors, it helps reduce the burden. Open communication with colleagues and supervisors is important too, if you are interested in creating any flexible work arrangements such as reduced hours of work, flex time, job sharing or taking a leave of absence.
Supervisors and managers can play a key role in encouraging discussions about family caregiving and providing the flexibility to help reduce stress that comes from trying to balance work and personal needs outside work. We know from research that acknowledging people’s needs outside of work is the key driver to employee commitment outranking compensation, benefits, training and job growth. We also know that employees with supervisors who are sensitive to their personal needs are more satisfied with their jobs and miss half as many workdays as employees with non-supportive supervisors.2
If the topic of family caregiving is not visible in your workplace, you could begin to raise the topic by sharing information about your own situation. The information in this section can also be shared with your supervisor and colleagues.
The benefits of workplace support to employees who are also family caregivers include:
Eldercare and childcare
It is also helpful to bear in mind that eldercare is not the same as childcare.
As one person said, ―You would think that picking up your elderly parent from a stay in the hospital should take only a few hours but it doesn’t. It takes about two weeks - by the time you deal with doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, home care and other family members and rearrange the person’s home to accommodate any decline in physical abilities.
1 According to a recent study on work life balance conducted by AON and the Royal Bank, www.royalbank.com/ careers/workressurv/balance_wfl.html
2 Lero, D., Rooney, J. & Johnson, K. (2001). Work-life compendium 2001: 150 Canadian statistics on work, family and well-being. HRDC and Guelph University
3 Robart, J. (1998). The Bottom Line: The Cost/Benefit of Work-Life Programs. Unpublished paper prepared for Conference Board of Canada: The Family Caregiving and the Workplace Conference, Vancouver, BC.