If you are a caregiver working outside the home, you know better than anyone how difficult it can be to balance your personal and professional commitments. You are proud of the care you’re providing, and you want to be everything and do everything for your loved one in need.

But let’s be honest, we all need help from time to time, especially with extra energy going to raising children, providing elder care, maintaining a work schedule and saving for retirement. But your employer can help with this balance—if you let them.   

With the number of aging Americans on the rise, employers are taking notice. 

“We’re especially concerned that not enough is being done to support family caregivers in the public or private sector as they age,” Gail Gibson Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, explained in a press release. “There’s a double-edged sword when we fail to support caregivers, because we put both the caregiver and the care recipient at risk.”

Employers

Caregivers can be anyone we work with, so this is an important issue. AARP research shows why:   

  • Nearly 34% of American caregivers work full time with 25% working at least part time  
  • As of 2015, nearly 25 percent of America’s caregivers are millennials between the age of 18 and 34, showing caregivers are getting younger   
  • Many caregivers took paid vacation time to provide care rather than take vacation time, which can lead to increased employee burnout  
  • The cost of workplace absenteeism, workplace disruptions and reduced work status can cost U.S. companies as much as $34 billion each year
  • Losing valuable employees, their expertise and experience is detrimental to productivity

If you’re concerned about caregiving impacting your job performance, try these five ways to work with your employer to manage stress and maximize your hours in and out of the office.  

Open Communication. You may not always feel comfortable discussing your caregiving status with your supervisor. You’re not alone—of all working caregivers, 28 percent report their employer is not aware of their caregiving status. Even though it is a part of your personal life, the balance does affect job performance and satisfaction, so it is a large interest for your employer. By starting an open line of communication, your boss will be able to understand your situation, and in turn, be able to better meet your needs. 

Supervisor Training. It is important supervisors at any level are aware of and adhere to work-life policies, especially those who are responsible for approving schedules or time off and assessing work load. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has detailed information about best practices for employers of caregivers. You should familiarize yourself with your company’s policies about caregivers, and if there are none, ask your supervisor or human resources for clarity. 

Flexibility. If you are not able to complete your duties as a caregiver or parent, you may become distracted at work, which means less productivity or the desire to quit so you can take care of things that are most important to you—caring for their loved ones. 

Employers can both increase productivity and improve retention by allowing flexible schedules so you can complete the important tasks you have. This could be four-day work weeks of ten hour days, working from home on certain days or the ability to leave to take loved ones to doctor’s appointments or watch grandchildren as your adult children have their own work obligations. 

Information. If you are a first-time caregiver, you are learning as you go alone. While your loved one’s medical team may be able to answer some of your questions, you can never have too much information about finances, stress relief, time management or community resources available to you. Employers can provide all of this information to you for a relatively low cost through at-work  programs, training seminars, support groups or even Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which can help with issues like stress management. Ask your company’s human resources department what is available for you.  

Financial Counseling. You dedicate a great deal of time and money caring for your loved one, whether it is subsidizing paid care or additional housing and maintenance expenses. This can be stressful as it can offset your budget and retirement planning. If your employer offers 401k programs, you likely have access to financial advisors for planning and budgeting. Employees who receive counseling on finances are proven to overwhelmingly show loyalty to the employers who have provided guidance, so this benefits you both. Do not be afraid to ask your employer financial questions. 

Kindred is here to be your resource. If you have healthcare questions as a caregivers, call 1.866.KINDRED and speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For the full report on caregivers, visit Caregiving.org

By Blair Klayko