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Working while caretaking: why hybrid-remote work is a great way to take care of your caretaker employees

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Have you ever wondered how many of your employees are taking care of a loved one? More than one in six American workers also serve as caretakers, which means they take care of a child, a parent, or another person in their life.

Caretakers who work outside their home full time often struggle to balance these responsibilities with their home lives. But one of the leading ways employers can demonstrate support for caretaking employees is by offering the flexibility of hybrid-remote work options, which has been shown to boost employee happiness and productivity. This can help companies retain top talent, and benefit from more productive and reliable employees as a result.

Remote work helps caretakers juggle their competing responsibilities

Employees who also take care of their children or an aging relative feel a lot of pressure when tackling competing work and caretaking duties. They can get stressed or burnt out as a result. These competing responsibilities can affect an employee’s work performance, which can affect their company, too. But remote work options can help caretakers find a better balance between these two demanding roles.

Many employees admit their work performance has suffered because of how much they are taking on. According to a National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study, 70% of working caregivers suffer from work-related difficulties due to their dual roles. Nearly half of caretaking employees say they are late to work, leave the office early, or take time off because they need to meet their caretaking responsibilities. Around 7% of these workers are eventually warned about performance or attendance, according to a 2018 report by Cariloop.

According to a survey by the consulting firm Gallagher, the situation has become especially dire during the COVID-19 pandemic, with around 32% of organizations reporting they have experienced employee attrition due to their employees’ caretaking duties.

Meanwhile, many people caught between caretaking and work duties can find it challenging to take care of themselves as well. The American Psychological Association says that caretakers can often struggle with fatigue, weakened immune systems, and loss of time for self-care, all of which can reduce work performance.

None of this is ideal for your organization or your employee. But remote working options can address these issues by allowing employees to organize their schedules around their competing duties instead of going to an office at a specific time. By making schedules more flexible and increasing the amount of autonomy and free time your employees enjoy, remote work allows caretaking employees to take better care of themselves and their families without taking time away from work. Overall, remote employees report being happier in their jobs than their in-office colleagues, according to a survey conducted last year for CNBC.

“The positive element of working remotely is the ability to take care of the family and be more flexible with your working hours. Kids need help with schooling, no problem. Mom needs help with groceries. Can do,” explains Jo Barnes, the founder of the company Your Lifestyle Business. “It’s far easier to have to juggle all the jobs from the same place than having to squeeze it in before or after office hours.”

That means they won’t have to sacrifice their jobs to take care of their loved ones, and they can take increased ownership of both their workday and their work product.

Remote work frees up time in a caretaker’s busy schedule

Giving employees the possibility to work remotely can provide them with the extra free time they would otherwise spend commuting or getting ready to go to an office. This time can help them combine their caretaking responsibilities more effectively with work or spend the additional free time on self-care. What’s more, it will allow employees to focus on the quality of their work contributions, rather than the time they spend in the office.

While saving an hour or two on your daily commute may not sound like such a big deal at first blush, a 2019 report for Citrix showed that remote workers have 105 more hours of free time each year than people who work in an office.

Lisha Dunlap, a public relations associate at the University of Advancing Technology, says working remotely has made it easier to take care of her son without neglecting her work responsibilities.

“It is wonderful to be able to take my son to school and pick him up for the first time in my life—no daycare, no buses, and no stress if I have to get him from school early because it’s only three miles away,” Dunlap explains. “That is a huge comfort for me. I have the flexibility to meet the needs of my work and motherhood in a way I’ve never had before.”

Catherine Way, a marketing manager for Prime Plus Mortgages, says the flexibility that remote work offers is key to allowing workers to “do it all,” even during the pandemic.

“While many families are struggling to relearn the ropes and routines, caretakers can actually spend more time with their children and bond with them throughout the workday,” Way said.

When employees are in charge of their schedules, and they don’t get points just for showing up and clocking in, the quality of their contribution matters more than the number of hours they sit in an office.

“The focus has to change from time-bound work hours to output,” says Allison Hartsoe, CEO of Ambition Data. “Did I get the kids fed? Check. Did I complete the project? Check. Did I make time for myself? Check.”

In other words, employees can better manage their competing responsibilities and show up fully in every area of their life when they are empowered to shape their schedules.

Remote work can also provide opportunities for people dealing with a family tragedy or a sick relative to handle these difficulties without giving up their jobs.

In an interview with the remote work platform FlexJobs, a full-time product manager for UnitedHealth Group said that remote work allowed her to arrange her work schedule around her husband’s doctor’s appointments after a cancer diagnosis. This type of flexibility can go a long way toward allowing caretakers to show up fully in their jobs and be dedicated to their work, despite their other obligations.

Caretakers who work remotely are happier and more productive

The majority of caretakers who work remotely are happier and more productive than many of their colleagues.

The video conferencing company Owl Labs conducted a survey of U.S. workers for its 2019 State of Remote Work report and found that employees who regularly work remotely are happier and stay with their companies longer than on-site employees. Over 80% of respondents also said the option to work remotely would make them feel more trusted, less stressed, better able to achieve work-life balance, and more likely to recommend their company to a friend.

Research into the sustainability of remote work by RingCentral also showed that caretakers are often more productive than their non-caretaker teammates, and 57% of caretakers reported higher levels of positive well-being. In comparison, only 51% of employees who are not caretakers said the same.

“It’s possible that caretakers—who may have struggled with balancing time when going to an office—now feel greater balance (and happiness) working from home,” the report said. “Caretakers also tend to be more structured, an important trait for successful remote workers.”

Tara Furiani, CEO of Not the HR Lady, says remote work allowed her to run her company and spend time with her family, even while so many people have struggled to find balance during the pandemic.

“I’ve loved the time with my family, especially with my kids and my mom, who lives in our very full, multigenerational household,” Furiani says. “I’m lucky. There are many people who don’t have the flexibility that I do with their work.”

Flexibility shows your caretaking employees compassion

Hybrid work is one of the most powerful displays of compassion a company can make because it provides employees with the flexibility and freedom to manage their competing responsibilities.

What’s more, when employees suffer, it can reduce their productivity. According to Leah Weiss, a researcher who teaches compassionate leadership at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, compassion and acts of kindness at work can help companies reduce turnover and even make more money.

In other words, when your employees feel happy and cared for, it works out well for everyone, and remote work options can be just the thing to make your caretaking employees feel supported.

Originally published Apr 27, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022

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