Caregivers in the Workplace: What Bosses and Employees Need to Know
ProService Hawaii explains how to make the return-to-work jump and how to support caregivers at your company.
Part I: ProService Hawaii offers advice on how to successfully return to work after time off for caregiving
We saw a mass exodus of people, mainly women, leaving the workforce to care for children and other loved ones during the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the cost of child care and limited preschool options in Hawai‘ i forced some parents to step back from work to focus on family responsibilities. And other employees left the workforce to care for elderly family members.
For many people, time away from the workforce is only temporary, and jumping back in can feel intimidating and stressful. ProService offers these tips to help you overcome the uncertainty and make your transition easier.
- Don’t apologize for taking time away
In a job interview, acknowledge your time away from the workforce and gaps in your resume. However, instead of dwelling on the gaps, keep the focus on why you’re the best person for the job. We’re lucky that many local company leaders act with compassion and aloha for their prospective employees. If an employer faults you for being a caregiver, you probably don’t want to work for that company.
- Align on benefits
While flexibility looks different across various fields or positions, the pandemic caused many companies to reinvent the rules and add new benefits to attract and retain workers. During your job search, study benefits packages, company values and an organization’s willingness and ability to be flexible.
Ask if perks that you want like flexible schedules, remote work, compressed workweeks, part-time work or other unique formats are available and encouraged. You might be surprised by an organization’s willingness to flex.
- Build a support system
Talk about your return-to-work challenges with friends, colleagues, former classmates and family. Chances are they have faced a career pause and re-entry and can lend support or a friendly ear. On an island, relationships are everything so being open and transparent can help to ease worries and strengthen your network.
- Don’t sell yourself short
Stepping away from your career to care for a family member is admirable and speaks volumes about your character. Time out for caregiving doesn’t mean you “fell behind,” nor does it void prior capabilities and current skills. Long gone are the days when employers viewed gaps in resumes as a ding. With new talent comes new skills and perspectives, which employers greatly value and appreciate.
Part II: ProService Hawaii provides ways you can support caregivers who work for your company – or want to
Caregiving isn’t new. It’s just become harder to ignore in the workplace.
These last few years have emphasized how hard it is for parents and other caregivers to juggle work and family responsibilities. It has also shown that the right mix of policies and benefits, thoughtfully and clearly communicated, can go a long way in supporting (and retaining) employees and your bottom line.
Why? When employers try to help employees in ways that are truly meaningful to them, the results are improved performance, engagement and loyalty – the crown jewels of a healthy workplace.
Here are four steps for supporting caregivers in your workplace.
- Destigmatize caregiving from the top down
It’s common for employees to worry if caregiving will undermine their career trajectories or make them appear less committed. Encourage your senior leaders and managers to create a culture that is supportive of caregivers by being good role models.
This can include having positive attitudes toward taking leave, partaking in self-care activities, blocking off time to drop off kids at school, or leaving work early to see a child’s basketball game. Small things like this can have a big impact on undoing the stigma (real or perceived) around caregiving that permeates many workplaces.
- Offer policies and benefits that support caregivers
Expanded child care responsibilities, multigenerational households and a large Baby Boomer population are all contributing to high rates of burnout, turnover and attrition. So while verbalizing the value of caregiving is important, it’s essential to back up your words with practical benefits that support working caregivers.
Employers can offer a variety of benefits, including financial ones like paid parental leave and stipends, or help caregivers cover their expenses with dependent care FSAs, pre-tax flexible spending accounts. You can also expand your paid time off or flexible schedule policy to accommodate the nuanced schedules caregivers may have. Create a private space for milk expressing and nursing. Not sure what to offer? Start an open dialogue with caregivers to see what support they need most.
- Investigate what flexibility benefits could look like
Before you rule this benefit out, know that every job, even an hourly job or shift work, can have some flexibility. If work from home or remote work aren’t options, be flexible with hours and scheduling. Try giving shift employees more advance notice about their schedules so they can plan for their other obligations, or use technology that gives them the ability to swap their work schedules more easily when they need flexibility.
Perhaps it’s offering part-time arrangements, project-based work or creating a “parent shift” (8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for workers who can only work during typical school hours. Encourage your leaders to talk to employees and see what flexibility benefits might look like in your organization. Then shout it from the rooftops because flexibility is one of the most important benefits to workers today.
- Empathy is important
Above all else, supporting, retaining and attracting working caregivers in your organization requires empathy. Start by validating your employees’ caregiving challenges and provide a listening ear.