Did you know, nearly one in eight employees are carers? That two thirds of those employees work full-time? And that the peak age for unpaid caring is 45-64?*
It’s likely those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg too. Some employees might not feel comfortable coming forward. Some might not see themselves as a carer – just a parent, spouse, sibling or friend. And some employees might gradually slip into a caring position without even realising it.
Caring is tough at the best of times. Caring while holding down a full or part-time job can be even tougher. So, here are some simple tips to help you support employees as best you can.
1. Actually understand
Listening is one thing. Understanding is another. And actioning and remembering is a whole new level.
Invest time into getting under the skin of impacted employees. For example, if they’re stressed, how’s best to manage them? Would they prefer to be left alone for a while? Do they need someone to talk to? Would they rather you didn’t acknowledge that they’re stressed?
All of this will differ from employee-to-employee, so it’s key that you or whoever’s managing them has a true understanding of what works best for their individual needs.
2. Be supportive
If an employee comes to you to talk about their carer responsibilities and/or struggles, be supportive. Talk to them, take the time to understand their situation and encourage them to be open – often, having this kind of two-way dialogue will help uncover easy solutions.
In addition, taking a positive and proactive approach will encourage others to come forward too.
3. Give a little back
As with any type of working relationship, it can’t be all take and no give. Whether it’s an early dart every now and then to make an appointment, freedom to take and make phone calls during working hours, changing tasks or relaxing deadlines (if practicable), as and where you can, actively make the effort to make their lives easier when they need it.
4. Offer flexible working
If an employee’s been with you – continuously – for 26 weeks or more, they can apply for flexible working. Instead of waiting for them to request it, why not be proactive and offer it?
This’ll show them that you’re making the effort to be proactive and come up with practical solutions and, at the end of the day, it benefits both parties. There are a number of different flexible workingoptions, but the ability to work from home, compress hours, flexitime and change start or finish times are just a few that may help employees who’re carers.
5. Set-up support groups
The life of a carer can be lonely. They might be exhausted. They might be stressed. And they might feel like they’ve got the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one in your position, and that’s certainly no different for employees who are carers. Whether it’s face-to-face, a forum or some form of anonymous portal, consider facilitating a means for employees to get together and air their thoughts, struggles, concerns and, well, anything they want!
6. Point them to third parties
Whether it’s to a charity, counselling service, therapist, psychologist or their GP, make employees aware of external support networks. If an employee’s not comfortable talking about their situation in the workplace, this will help support them from afar and show them that they’re certainly not alone.
7. Lead by example
Everyone needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet to ensure a fair and consistent approach is followed at all times. So, it’s essential that your position to supporting employees who’re carers drips down into your management team.
And that applies to you, the employer, too. After all, what’s the use in distilling your approach into others and putting measures in place if you don’t practice what you preach?
While it’s important to work around employees who are carers’ needs, it’s equally important to make sure employees who aren’t carers don’t feel hard done by. Balance is key.
So, for example, if you let employees who are carers leave early now and then to get to appointments on time, it might be seen as unfair if you don’t let other employees get out a few minutes early to make appointments of their own.
The last thing you want is to miff off the rest of your workforce, so try to be mindful of how others will see your support techniques too.
The business benefits
While the number one priority is, and always should be, the welfare of your employees, there are a number of business benefits to going the extra mile when supporting your staff, like: