This fall, I visited several companies to either provide a seminar or participate in a health fair on behalf of various Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or Work/Life benefit companies. I went to a companies from a variety of industries–tech, service, manufacturing. It’s fascinating to observe a company’s culture, which develops not only from the management but also from the industry.
When I’m presenting or participating in a health fair, I also have an opportunity to speak with both employees and human resource managers. During one of these conversations this fall, I started to wonder: When will we have homes full of employees who also care for a family members and offices full of empty cubes?
The tide is turning and turning into a tide wave. We know that our aging demographics mean we’ll have more individuals who need care. The evolution of how we treat a disease process means that we live much longer with chronic illness with the help of a family member who provides care. A caregiving experience could include caring for a parent with age-related frailties and a spouse with a chronic illness and a child with special needs.
A 2012 report released by AARP found that 42% of U.S. workers provided unpaid eldercare for a family member or friend over the last five years. And, 49% expect to do so in the coming five years. What if we included all caregiving situations (caring for a spouse, a sibling, a child)? Imagine what that figure could be–more than half of U.S. workers involved in a caregiving experience.
Caregiving, we know, doesn’t exist within a schedule. We don’t just provide care from 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and then head off to work to be fully presented in our jobs. And, yet, our work does exist within a schedule and a schedule that extends into longer hours. Caregiving is a 24/7 job. More and more, our work is becoming a 60-hour-a-week commitment. How do we do both? Caregiving requires flexibility and yet work demands we stay on task.
The telecommuting trend is becoming more and more business as usual. I met more employees this fall who work from home than I ever have–and I’ve been speaking on behalf of EAPs and work/life benefit companies since 1999.
But, what if you work in an industry–like teaching and manufacturing–that doesn’t allow for flexible work hours and telecommuting? Or, what if you are low man on the totem pole so can’t take advantage of flex hours or telecommuting?
If you work on a line and a strict shift schedule, how do you take time off for your caree’s doctor’s appointment? If you teach, how do you manage a mid-day caregiving crisis? What if you just started a job and your caree has a sudden decline?
I think how we do business is going to be significantly impacted by our caregiving roles. Companies slow to adopt telecommuting and flex work schedules will find themselves facing a work stoppage–simply because too many employees will be outside the office managing their caregiving experience. Companies that understand what’s coming–more and more of their employees will be managing their career and a caregiving experience that can last a decade or longer–and work now to find solutions will keep their customers (and their business) because they’ll have their employees.
What do you think? Do you have an opportunity to work from work? Do you work for a company that allows little flexibility for how and where you work? Share your experiences in our comments section, below.