Before You Quit to Care for Your Family, Have This Conversation with Your Boss
If you’re like 73% of U.S. workers, you are a parent, you care for an aging or disabled loved one, or both. As we continue to navigate COVID-19, the pressure is on for women who are working family caregivers, and many are on the verge of burning out.
Workers aged 24-39 are the least likely to tell their employers about this tension between work and family life. A survey in April found that 14% of women were considering quitting their jobs due to caregiving responsibilities associated with COVID-19.
Before you think of quitting, it’s worth reaching out to your boss or HR leader asking to talk with them about how your organization could provide more support for employees who are caregivers. You may be surprised to find that employers who have historically been slow to provide caregiving support for employees are often now ready to step up.
As the pandemic continues to underscore how caregiving affects the U.S. workforce and the ability of our economy to function, employers can no longer ignore the needs of their employees who are balancing work and family caregiving.
[Related: 7 Ways to Offer Flex Work At Your Company]
As you start the conversation, keep these tips in mind:
- Assume good intentions. Your leaders may not know the scope of caregiving among their current team. Recognize that your leaders may be at a tipping point where they just now recognize caregiving as a strategic initiative for the company.
- Approach from a stance of partnership. Understand that your leaders' jobs require making decisions that will grow a financially healthy business that builds long-term value. Focus your conversations on shared goals, rather than specific demands.
- Find early wins and build on them over time. Pick a low-risk, low-cost tactic first. Embrace corporate leaders’ desire to keep up with their competition by targeting tactics that other employers in your field have already adopted.
- Find your people. Identify a diverse range of colleagues in your organization who support your goals. Remember that your allies may not currently be caregiving, and that caregivers in your organization may not be comfortable publicly coming forward with their own challenges.
- Anticipate questions about a mix of concerns. Be ready to find answers about the possible impacts on your company: financial, cultural, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
- Remember that data can help build your business case. Use data from credible sources: Harvard Business School's Caring Company project, AARP's Employer Caregiving resources, and NEGBH's Employer Benchmarking Survey are a few examples.
Here are five low-lift, low-cost initiatives you can propose to your boss or HR leader:
- Provide managers with training on how to manage a remote team working flexibly. Without training, managers may be prone to bias that can negatively affect employees with caregiving responsibilities.
- Provide guidance on how staff can use temporary leave to care for their family. Include employer-based paid and unpaid leave, as well as emergency paid leave from federal, state, and local policies.
- Create a virtual community for caregivers using your Employee Resource Groups and/or internal messaging platform, using these great tips from Catalyst.
- Provide a “Use Your Benefits” tip sheet to show caregivers how to leverage their current benefits fully. Caregivers often don’t have time to wade through all the details. Make it easy for them.
- Help employees prepare to become family caregivers by providing free resources and programs. While employers often address childcare, increasingly employees need to prepare to care for parents, siblings, or spouses.
To make it easy to start the conversation in your organization, you can customize this e-mail template:
Dear [Manager/HR leader],
I’m reaching out because I’d like to schedule time to share some ideas that could help our organization navigate COVID-19 successfully. I just learned that 73% of employees currently provide care for a child, an adult loved one, or both — an astounding figure. These working parents and working family caregivers are now navigating a whole new level of challenges as they work without their usual child and senior care supports. Research shows they’ll be 30% more likely to stay at our company if they feel supported, and there are some simple steps that could make a real difference.
Can we find time next week to talk about this? I’ll bring a brief presentation that summarizes key research and frames a few options for how we could approach this opportunity to support working parents and family caregivers during COVID-19. I was happy to see that some ideas are low-lift and no-cost and I hope we can find something that is a good fit for our organization.
All the best, [Your Name]
During the meeting, use an introductory presentation to guide the conversation about why and how employers can support caregivers. (A preview video can help you feel prepared.) Your goal for the meeting is to choose one simple “experiment” your team could try.
According to Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate and host of the Ellevate podcast about how employers can support caregivers:
Speak up. If this is important to you, let your employer or manager know...This is the moment for this conversation. We are starting to see the stars align.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made employers more aware than ever of how many employees are caregivers — and the impact that it has on them. Now is an excellent time to start a conversation about how your employer can better support those who are or will become caregivers — including you.
Nancy LeaMond is executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP.
Heather Ainsworth is the CEO of Workable Concept.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Start your free membership to continue reading and learning from people who want to help you succeed.Sign up for free