By: Heather Ainsworth
Sure, Mother’s Day brunch and Father’s Day barbecues are lovely, but what the millions of US workers who juggle work and caring for loved ones really want is to be seen and supported by their employers. As we navigate the Delta variant and The Great Resignation, October’s Work and Family Month offers us a powerful way to see and celebrate our teams. Now’s the time to plan for a celebration of all the working parents and family caregivers among us.
Why is it so important to celebrate Work and Family Month this October? Bob Stephen, AARP’s VP Health and Caregiving, says:
We know nearly all of our employees have navigated caregiving in some way this year — and are now navigating a return to the workplace even as caregiving stress is still exacerbated by the pandemic — so leaders need to be visible in their support for employees caring for kids, adults, or both.
Especially in a year where racial and gender equity have been top of mind, leaders need to start conversations about how their employees are experiencing caregiving as an intersectional issue and be inclusive of all types of caregivers.
Who are the employees we want to engage during Work and Family Month? Everyone. All employees work, all have families, and nearly all are now providing care for a child, adult, or both—or are about to, whether or not they know it.
Today, 73% of employees are caring for a child, adult, or both. One in four working family caregivers are Millennial. 40% of family caregivers are men. And the Sandwich Generation, who care for both children and an adult, is among the fastest growing groups of caregivers.
What’s a unique way to celebrate Work and Family Month? This year, make a point to reach beyond addressing just parents of young children.
Instead, help your team anticipate how and when they may have to care for an adult in their life — whether a spouse with a cancer diagnosis or an in-law with early Alzheimer’s. While parents-to-be are immersed in classes, websites, and books about how to prepare to become a parent, most family caregivers don’t know where to turn to prepare for their role.
For some, their world changes with a phone call or a doctor’s visit that creates an urgent need. Others ease into a caregiving role as part of being a “good son” or a “good daughter-in-law” without realizing they’ve become a caregiver — and so do not actively look for the support that’s available to them. Employers can powerfully bridge this gap.
So, how can you plan for your team celebrate Work and Family Month this October? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Host a free virtual Prepare to Care event to help your team members prepare for the family caregiving role they see coming — or navigate the caregiving role they’re already trying to juggle with work. You can host it for your team of three, your entire company, or your ERG. Everything you need to do it is in this Work and Family Month Program Kit and you can plan it in just fifteen minutes. As more families are opting out of institutionalized care for loved ones during the pandemic, the pressures on your team are increasing as their loved ones age at home (or move in!). Who knows — your efforts might even inspire your HR or DEI team to build on your efforts by starting a caregiving initiative across your organization’s ERGs.
- Encourage managers in your organization to invest twenty minutes in a quick online training about how to support employees with caregiving responsibilities. A manager’s empathy and support are key drivers of whether they can retain their employees who have caregiving responsibilities — or see resignations instead. In a tight job market, this matters more than ever.
- Offer a Personal Annual Plan workshop to help working parents and family caregivers create their own plan for 2022 that grounds their professional goals in a broader set of caregiving supports. Employees who create a personal plan that supports their annual performance goals are likely to be able to thrive at both work and home. Often a cohort of employees doing this together grow into a longer-term professional support network.
However you choose to plan your Work and Family Month celebration, remember that companies with diverse teams and caregiver supportive workplaces actually have higher financial performance. Celebrating the working parents and family caregivers on your team is not only the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing to do.
Heather Ainsworth is an Advisor to AARP Family Caregiving and CEO of Workable Concept. She advises employers on affordable, inclusive strategies to create workplaces that support all employees who have caregiving responsibilities. She also provides employer sponsored career coaching for working parents and family caregivers. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org and @heathains.