Currently, one in five American families includes an individual with caregiving duties, and caregivers in the workplace are becoming much more common. Given the advent of the sandwich generation, or those people who care for both children and aging parents, this number is expected to rise. Even more, the increase of women in the workforce is leading to more working caregivers than ever before, because women tend to be the primary caregiver to both children and elderly parents.
Work can offer respite from caretaking and offer emotional and social support. However, caregiving can impact job performance due to increased absences, interruptions at work, and even unpaid leave. With the increased burden of working and caring for another, do working caretakers experience decreases in their psychological well-being? In this study, the authors (Li, Shaffer, & Bagger, 2015) found that working caregivers experience negative mental outcomes, and they also explain what to do about this growing problem.
CONSERVATION OF RESOURCES
According to the conservation of resource theory, individuals balance the demands of work and caregiving by keeping a supply of resources, such as personal characteristics (self-esteem, confidence) or environmental conditions (social support, health). If these valued resources diminish, individuals may be vulnerable to decreases in well-being, as well as be unable to adjust to stressful situations. Those individuals with high resource demands, particularly caring for an individual with a severe disability, are especially susceptible to the loss of resources. This can eventually result in inability to cope with stress.
FAMILY AND SUPERVISOR SUPPORT
The authors found that working caregivers with supportive families had less conflict between family and work. In addition, when supervisors were perceived to accommodate their caregiving employees, it resulted in positive mental outcomes for the employee. Working caregivers who had a high level of conflict between work and life but perceived that their manager supported them, experienced decreased depression and higher life satisfaction. Therefore, other people do make a difference in improving the psychological well being of working caregivers.
How can families with a disabled, elderly, or care needing individual support the demands of the caregiver in their family?
- Openly discuss the caregiving responsibilities and ways to reduce the demands.
- Negotiate the care arrangements with family members.
- Work with a family counselor to adjust to the caregiving role and to increase family support.
What can managers do to support caregivers under their supervision?
- Be open to offering accommodations (such as flextime) to employees that care for another individual.
- Listen to caregiving employees in order to identify fair and reasonable accommodations.
- Work with the organization’s policies to implement appropriate accommodations customized to the caregiver’s needs.
- Share the experience of managing caregiving employees with other managers and leaders in the organization.
The authors also recommend that organizations offer training to supervisors so that they are better able to support caregivers.
THE FINAL WORD
With the growing number of employees providing care to individuals with disabilities or elderly parents, it is necessary for employers to understand how to manage employees that are caretakers. This will prove helpful to the well-being of the caregivers, as well as the success of the organization.