CHALLENGE THE PROF: Readers who are family caregivers 

Last week we discussed Caregiver Employees — people who take care of loved ones in addition to the rest of their work and life responsibilities. Today, we hear from readers who shared their experience as family caregivers while working part- or full-time outside the home.

Because this was such a targeted survey among readers, there were only a few respondents (10). So, I won’t go into too much demographic details or percentages related to their responses. They are taking care of spouses, partners, in-laws, parents and siblings.

Respondents were asked how supportive their respective employers were/are: 1 is Not Supportive at All and 10 is Very Supportive. A total of six respondents rated their employer as a 9 or 10; three respondents rated their employer as a 1; and, one respondent gave their employer a 5.

From their responses, I categorized their employers as Supportive, Not Supportive, Somewhere in Between.

Supportive Employer

“My employer allowed me to structure the flexibility necessary to care for my family member. I was also able to access support systems within my employer that helped through difficult responsibilities of being a caregiver.”

“I was allowed to leave work early on several occasions. My employer checks in on how my mom is doing regularly. My employer offers prayers and anything needed.”

“Allowed work from home (due to COVID, but became permanent, which permits working from her home). Flexibility when needing to take her to appointments.”

Not Supportive Employer

“I was unemployed when I began being my mother’s caregiver; however, every place I applied to is not supportive of this fact.”

“I was constantly called into the office for looking tired.”

Somewhere in Between Employer

“My employer was supportive in that they allowed me to work from home or hospital, leave early to pick up kids, take husband to hospital etc. But the expectations were immense and they said — doesn’t matter where you work, just get the work done. Which I get, and agree with. But they (leadership) didn’t tell me to take care of myself or lighten any loads. I started the role one month before his cancer diagnosis, and my job provided our health insurance. We had a 5 and 8 year old. My job took over a new territory six months after I started, and I managed the bill of the process. The pressure was immense.”

“When my sibling was under hospice care, my direct supervisor reduced my caseload and then allowed me to work the bulk of my hours remotely and with flexibility regarding the hours of the day I worked. This allowed me to continue with cases/client relationships while still providing the care my sibling needed. It is important to note that this was well before COVID made remote work commonplace. I recently reached out, years later, to thank my former supervisor for her grace and compassion.”

“With my mother I worked full-time but was able to set my own hours and work when I had coverage.”

When I asked respondents what would have helped them in their role as a Caregiver Employee, it came down to two things:

• Not having to choose between caring for my loved one or keeping my job; having resources — money, social services — to get through the process

• More community understanding, where community is the workplace, because every employee will likely face this situation; employees want to give their best to their employer and their loved one

Some Observations

I think employers can do a lot better. Let’s look at the poor examples of support. Some of the comments shared make it clear that employers can do a lot better. “Calling in” an employee to their supervisor because they are tired, “grudgingly” approving accommodations (i.e. FMLA) and questioning the employee if there is “anyone else to take on the responsibility” is pretty cold and I would say heartless. If this is your attitude, you are clueless about what Caregiver Employees are facing. Even those employers who let employees “do what they need to do” but threaten them not to expect any slack add to the already extraordinary pressure Caregiver Employees already feel.

The difference between supportive and not-supportive employers comes down to actually caring about Caregiver Employees. The employers rated as “supportive,” not only provided flexibility but they actually showed compassion and empathy (they are different). Empathy is being aware and understanding of what another person is going through; compassion, which comes from empathy, creates a desire to help.

One respondent said, “Compassion is always remembered (and often paid forward). I would add that a hard line stance which shows a lack of compassion is also never forgotten and can become magnified over time, causing ripple effects in the organization’s overall employee satisfaction, as employees don’t often keep these types of circumstances/responses to themselves.” That is what creates a workplace culture that really makes a difference for the Caregiver Employee.

Thanks to the readers who responded and to all Caregiver Employees. I see you and support you! And, there are many employers who see you as well. You see, it’s not just about accommodating your caregiving, it’s about caring for employees as a human being — something EVERY employee deserves.

Next Column:  Let’s talk about color at work!

Dr. Santo D. Marabella, The Practical Prof®, is professor emeritus of management at Moravian University and hosts the podcast “Office Hours with The Practical Prof® … and Friends.” His latest book, “The Lessons of Caring” is written to inspire and support caregivers (available in paperback and eBook). Website:; Twitter: @PracticalProf; Facebook: ThePracticalProf.

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