With an aging population and the National Health Service feeling the strain, the contribution of carers has come in stark focus.
With latest figures estimating that there are around 7 million carers in the UK (that’s 1-in-10 people), they’re not only a lifeline for people with long-term health problems or a form of disability, they also contribute a staggering amount to the UK economy - £132bn a year in fact!
However, the life and career of a carer - whilst certainly rewarding - can be extremely challenging. The physical, mental and financial strains that comes with being someone’s lifeline and having to hold down their own career is not to be underestimated.
FEELING THE STRAIN
In a survey by carers.org, 45% of young carers (aged between 16-15) suffered mental health problems as a direct consequence of being a carer, rising to over 68% for older carers aged 50 and over.
Financial wellbeing was also an area of concern; with 53% of all carers saying that they’d had to borrow money due to their roles, whilst 41% have had to use overdraft facilities just to make ends meet.
Clearly, caring for others can result in additional stresses and strains that can have a detrimental effect on a carer’s quality of life. With this in mind, helping reduce these types of burdens is in the interest of every employer. Think about it: when a carer has less to worry about in their own lives, they’ll be more focused and engaged in their role.
This is where cleverly using rewards and benefits can pay real dividends.
1. OFFERING WORK FLEXIBILITY
Time is an asset that simply can’t be bought; so, giving the gift of time to people who care for others can have a genuinely positive effect on wellbeing.
The benefit of flexible working is a simple and clever way to build engagement with carers within your business.
Whether it’s somebody with young children, a partner with special needs or an elderly relative, flexible-working arrangements - which could include non-standard start and finish times or working outside the usual workspace – can help reduce the mental stress of constantly having to juggle work and personal commitments.
2. ACCESS TO HOLIDAY BUY-BACK
On the subject of time, let’s be honest here: virtually everyone enjoys being away from work and giving the people who care in your organisation the power to have more time away from their job is another way to help them manage their lives more effectively.
Annual leave purchase schemes can give your people the opportunity to purchase time off away from work and but spread the cost across the whole year direct from their pay. For carers, this can be hugely beneficial: reducing both financial and mental stress.
3. REWARD BEST BEHAVIOURS
For carers, the boundaries between home and work lives can become blurred. With this in mind, it’s important that you begin to understand the issues outside of the workplace that could impact employee’s motivation and focus and how to manage them effectively.
Rewarding the best behaviours you want to see in your organisation can help keep motivation levels high and the lines between work and home lives that little bit more defined.
Whilst you may not be able to alleviate all problems outside of work, you can at least make the time carers spend inside of work more engaging by rewarding employees for living your organisation’s core values.
4. ENCOURAGE AND SUPPORT SOCIAL EVENTS
As part of a more supportive company culture, try encouraging family-friendly events, such as family parties in the workplace or bring-your-child-to-work days. These can be brilliant methods in helping employers and colleagues to better understand employees’ specific caring responsibilities and tailor an approach that works for everyone.
5. OFFER FINANCIAL EDUCATION OR SUPPORT
Finally, with carers sometimes experiencing financial difficulties as a direct result of their duties, offering financial support in the form of education or professional advice can help them to make the best use of their money possible.
Going further, offering access to employee loans or debt consolidation services can prevent those who are in financial difficulty falling into a cycle of debt or relying on high-interest loans or credit cards.
Showing that you’re an employer who cares for their employees beyond their regular pay check is an extremely effective way of building real engagement – the sort that drives both positive motivation and workplace engagement.