Picture this: Wake up the kids, pack lunches, make an appearance at school drop-off, arrive just in time for the morning meeting, duck out of work to take dad to the doctor, shuttle the kids from school to soccer practice. Pause to scarf down a granola bar and get interrupted by the pharmacy’s call saying dad’s medication is ready for pick-up. Grab the kids and the meds, head home to make dinner, check homework, and finally, sit down to catch up on emails over a cold, half-eaten meal.
Exhausted yet? For employees in the sandwich generation who are caring for aging parents and children, this is a typical day, and it’s as taxing as it sounds.
While we all have moments when we’re too exhausted to think straight, the sandwich generation trudges along to care for the people who matter most. Unfortunately, in doing so, they often put themselves – and their careers – last. According to the Northeast Business Group on Health’s “Caregiving Landscape” whitepaper, caregivers miss an average of six days of work each year due to caregiving responsibilities, are less productive because of personal distractions, and are in poorer health than non-caregiving colleagues.
Caregiving needs don’t discriminate and can impact anyone, at any level of an organization, at any time. To make life work for employees and combat caregiving-related issues, here are some examples of benefits that give the sandwich generation the support they need to succeed in and out of the office:
- Flexible Work Schedule: According to a study published in the American Sociological Review, giving workers control over their own schedules results in lower stress levels, psychological distress and higher job satisfaction – all of which reduce the likelihood of burnout. The study also found those who worked flexible hours cranked out higher-quality work. For employees with personal obligations during the typical 9-to-5, flexibility allows them to accomplish everything they need without having to call out to catch up.
- Paid Family Leave: While the U.S. slowly works through its plans for paid leave, it’s up to employers to take matters into their own hands. Companies like Deloitte, Facebook, Nike and others are adopting programs that not only allow employees to take time off for family needs, but also make it possible for them to do so by providing compensation. In doing so, they’re not only recruiting top talent, but setting an example for other organizations.
RELATED: Deloitte's Paid Family Leave Benefit is a Sign of the Times
- Child Care Benefits: In a Care.com 2016 Cost of Care survey, 54 percent of families said they spend more than 10 percent of their household income on child care, and nearly 70 percent of parents say child care costs have influenced career choices. It’s no surprise then that our survey also found 85 percent of working parents wish their employer offered child care benefits. Employers can help alleviate the financial burden by subsidizing care options, including backup care for when dealing with a sick child or when a last minute business trip crops up.
- Senior Care Benefits: Currently one-in-six working adults care for an aging relative – a number that is only expected to grow – and it’s a role that brings new challenges. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for siblings to butt heads and have conflicting opinions on what’s best for aging parents, adding even more layers of stress. In addition to helping find care options for the day-to-day, providing tips and guidance gives caregivers confidence to navigate this new role.
RELATED: 7 Issues Employees Face When Confronted With Senior Care
- Financial Planning Assistance: As if managing personal finances wasn’t difficult enough, this generation may have a mortgage, while also helping pay college tuition and managing their parents’ estate.A TD Ameritrade report found 13 percent of Gen X-ers (who make up the largest portion of the sandwich generation) financially support, on average, one or more adults, often forcing them to delay retirement. Access to financial planning allows employees to work caregiving-related costs into their plan and better prepare for the future.
- Household Help: With everything else going on, sometimes the home front is the forgotten battleground. The laundry and trash pile up, and before long, homework, glasses, and briefcases have all gone missing. Employers can ease the burden of simple household tasks by providing meal prep, house cleaning and laundry services. According to findings from a Care.com 2014 Working Moms and Stress survey, 75 percent of working moms who hired help said it reduced stress – opening up precious time and mental real estate to focus on work projects.
- Access to Elder Care Experts: Senior care needs often arise suddenly, throwing employees into the unfamiliar territory of navigating elder care. Researching solutions while also managing the opinions of family members—including the parent who needs care—can be overwhelming. In recent years, the Care@Work team of masters-level social workers has conducted dozens of successful webinars and on-site seminars on topics ranging from coping with Alzheimer’s to managing long-term care arrangements. This white-glove approach can make a real difference in employees’ lives.
All told, caregiving-related costs, including absenteeism and turnover, have been estimated to run employers nearly $38 billion each year. With outside factors threatening productivity, it’s in employers’ best interest to provide the tools employees need to manage their personal lives so they can do well – and excel – at work with minimum distractions. By offering these benefits, employers show sandwich generation employees they care about their wellbeing and want to do what they can to help, which is good for everyone’s bottom line.
HR Leaders Also Read:
- Defining the Sandwich Generation at Work
- 5 Things You Need to Know About the Sandwich Generation
- 7 Stress Management Tips for Sandwich Generation Employees
- 11 No-Cost Tips for Better Senior Care at Your Institution