7 Ways to powerfully support the wellbeing of your carer-employees


As we continue our focus on National Carers Week, we bring you seven tips from experts on the most powerful ways to support your carer employers, whether they be caring for children or adults. For more on avoiding carer burnout and a loss of productivity, see this feature here

Provide really tangible, accessible support tools 

“Firstly, even acknowledgement of your population of caregivers through offering additional support of any kind holds huge weight,” says Flick Wileman, Global Wellbeing and Employee Engagement Lead at Reckitt. 

The company recognised the need to focus on carers during the Covid pandemic and has continued to build momentum behind this work:

“We learnt that value comes from providing really tangible and accessible support tools that are easily implemented. Those with caring responsibilities can already be short of time with all of the additional challenges this status brings, so make things easy for them if you want their engagement in the programmes,” she says.

As a result, Reckitt has focused on organisational psychological models that are clear, robust and do not require significant shifts in behaviour or life changes. 

Create a carers network / ERG

The adult care healthtech services company, KareHero, suggests this as a first step (see this feature for more on this company and how it strives to stop carer burnout).

“This at least then allows you to create a voice in the company for carers who can help each other, and others, understand what needs they have and then introduce solutions that work for the entire employee base,” says Stephanie Leung, Co-founder and CEO of KareHero.

Reckitt’s Wileman has also found a “significant appetite” from its carer employees to connect and share experiences in a network.

“They want to speak to others who empathise and understand their day-to-day challenges. There is no financial costs to setting this up, so if you are unsure of where to start or have limited budget to put behind your caregivers programme, perhaps start here,” she says.

However, one of the big bugbears from employees about networks is how much hard work they are for very little recognition often. Bearing in mind that carers are already very busy people with limited free time, it’s extra important that they get good support.

Lucinda Quigley, Head of Client Solutions EMEA and Executive Coach at Talking Talent, suggests that it’s “absolutely essential that any ERGs receive robust outside sponsorship from senior leaders to ensure they’re getting the support they need within the business”.

She cautions against inadvertently putting more pressure on carer employees:

“One of the major issues with ERGs is that often, the burden of responsibility to change views around these groups is being placed solely on the ERG. This isn’t fair. Keep in mind that you’re not providing support when the people who are experiencing the issue are also being asked to fix it.”

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Help start the conversation around caring

Research from personal alarm company Taking Care shows that one of the main issues in the UK is that elderly care is seen as a ‘taboo’ topic to many households; nine out of ten people say they have not discussed future care plans with their parents, and 50 per cent of people aged 50+ say they have not discussed what will happen when their parents become too frail to care for themselves.

“Currently, there’s a real nervousness and reluctance to ask for help – especially as people get older. The findings of this survey are exactly why we launched our Have the Talk campaign – we want to get Britain talking more openly,” says Lauren Frake, elderly care expert at Taking Care. (See more about this campaign here).

Employers have become skilled at getting the conversation going around potentially tricky topics and destigmatising them, from menopause to fertility, and could do the same with caring. 

Consider care-related benefits

Travers Smith’s Head of Benefits and Rewards Jackie Buttery says benefits which help employees navigate the stressful world of caring for dependents are really valued (see here for a profile piece on Buttery). 

The firm has introduced emergency backup care, which provides ad hoc emergency care sessions for employees to use for their dependents, which the firm funds. 

There’s also a platform of resources and a ‘speak to an expert’ service, which can be useful for people if they want to pick the brains of someone with expertise in a certain area. 

“It is very stressful if you are a working parent, or have an elderly relative if the usual care routine falls through,” says Buttery. “Often it is hard to find an alternative solution, particularly at short notice. I have lived that experience myself.”

Be aware that some of your employees may not even realise they are carers

This was indeed the case for Leung herself, who set up KareHero.

“I didn’t know I was what’s called an ‘unpaid carer’ until 15 years into my journey when I called Age Concern and they told me I was an unpaid carer. Then I suddenly realised there was a name to all the caring responsibilities I had been doing for decades. It was such a huge relief to know I wasn’t invisible and alone and I had others like me,” she says. 

Consequently, she urges companies to educate employees about the terminology around caring and particularly the definition of what it means to be a carer. She warns against sending out surveys ‘to carers’ as many don’t identify or see that word in themselves:

“If you do that, people like me won’t fill it in because I didn’t know I was a carer. Instead, ask them things like ‘are you going home every weekend to visit your parents? Are you taking them to hospital appointments? Are you looking after their medical records? Are you talking to social workers? The danger is that when someone hears the word ‘carer’ they think that just applies to a nurse or a professional clinician coming into the home.”

Offer flexible working arrangements

In Executive Coach Quigley’s opinion, offering carers flexibility is one of the most powerful things you can do.

“When caregivers experience a willingness from their employer to work with them, they won’t feel forced to have to choose their caring responsibilities over their job. Companies will be able to retain the skilled employees that they have,” she says.

Reframe the caring narrative

Caring responsibilities don’t just mean that employees need time off – they can also mean that employees develop positive skills, like empathy, that can be readily transferred for good into the workplace. This is where Reckitt’s focus now is, having latterly focused and completed rolling out support tools, with its new carers programme due to launch this summer.

“We will shift gear to focus on the key and transferrable skills that caregiving provides, how to foster these in a work environment and how to harness them for career development,” says Wileman. “We want to explore the positive psychology around not just ‘surviving’, but ‘thriving’ in your career as a carer and reframe how caregiving is viewed by highlighting the unique capabilities that it nurtures.”

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