Making Changes to Caregiving Benefits in the Era of Hybrid Work
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many workers to adapt their schedules and work styles to accommodate new childcare and eldercare responsibilities.
With offices reopening, many working caregivers are wondering how to best manage their time and commitments.
While a hybrid work model — a combination of in-office and remote work — may offer the best of both worlds, employers need to consider the unique needs of caregivers when crafting their policies.
Consider Individual Situations
Caregiving solutions should be flexible and based on employees’ personal and work circumstances. They may also need different types of support at different times, so they can vary their schedules as their caregiving responsibilities change.
For example, a hybrid worker might need access to on-site childcare when in the office and no support when at home. On the other hand, part-time employees might require assistance with childcare for a limited number of hours, whereas shift workers might need help outside of regular working hours. In such cases, employers can help by providing employees with access to childcare support at a reasonable cost.
At other times, employees might just need a bit of flexibility to handle their caregiving responsibilities. For instance, an employee might need to leave early to pick up a sick child from school or day care. Employers can allow employees to adjust their work hours as required in these situations. Some employers also provide some paid leave specifically for emergencies.
Set Expectations and Respect Boundaries
When crafting policies, employers should be clear about what they expect from employees regarding work hours and productivity. Employees should be informed about how much time they are expected to spend working in the office and at home.
If possible, employers should consider allowing employees to adopt flexible work schedules, including blocking out private time. For instance, this would enable employees to structure their work around their caregiving responsibilities. Many companies have instituted core blocks of time when all employees must be online, with the understanding that outside of those core hours, employees have the freedom to schedule their work time as they choose.
In most instances, employees should not be expected to answer work-related emails and calls during their private blocks or outside of working hours.
Provide Employee Support
Offering caregivers support doesn’t just benefit the employees — it also benefits the company. Caregivers who feel supported by their employer are more likely to be productive, engaged, and loyal to their company.
One company, for example, provided unemployed caregivers with 16 weeks of paid work experience to help them ease back into the workforce. Peer and community support can also be beneficial for caregivers. It helps them see that they don’t have to go through their challenges alone.
Some employers create or participate in support groups for caregivers. These groups provide employees with a space to share their experiences and connect with others who understand what they’re going through. Another way to support employees is to provide them with access to resources, such as caregiving information, coaching, and counseling.
Some companies have gone so far as to create well-being funds for their employees that can be used for anything from meal services to buying comfortable mattresses.
Provide Managers with the Right Training
A hybrid work model that supports caregivers is only as effective as the managers who oversee it. Therefore, employers must provide managers with the training they need to manage hybrid workers effectively.
This training should cover topics such as how to communicate effectively with remote employees, create an inclusive work environment, and accommodate employees with caregiving responsibilities.
Institute Clear Policies
Employers should also make sure to have clear policies and procedures to manage and support caregiving employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently updated its guidance to remind employers that they cannot discriminate against employees who are caregivers.
According to AARP, 191 local jurisdictions have instituted legal protections for caregivers in the workplace. For example, Delaware passed a law protecting people caring for adult family members against employment discrimination.
While employers should consult with employees to understand their needs, then create policies that address those needs, it’s also important to consult with legal counsel to ensure that their policies comply with the law.