Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Employers win when they support the Sandwich Generation

I am declaring today New Year’s Day 2.0.

To put it bluntly, the first 16 days of 2018 sucked. I need a do over.

This has been my 2018 to date.

On January 1, my mother-in-law was hospitalized.

Sadly, she passed away 3 days later.

In the interim, Norah came down with the flu.

We buried my mother-in-law on January 9.

That same day we took my father-in-law to the emergency room, and he remained hospitalized until last night.

In the interim, Donovan came down with strep.

Like I said, 2018 has sucked.

And it hasn’t just been me. I’ve heard an entire year’s worth of bad news packed into the past two weeks. For example, I know someone who, in the same house fire, lost her mother and nearly lost her daughter, who jumped out of second story window to save herself.

I tell you all of this not for your sympathy (really), but so that you understand my very real and recent perspective on what it mean to be part of the Sandwich Generation.

What is the Sandwich Generation? It is is a growing population — 47% of the nation’s 40- and 50-year-olds — wedged between their aging parents and their children. And, because most of this demographic works, most struggle with work-life balance issues.

What can you, as an employer, do to support these employees? Let me offer 4 suggestions.

1. Talk to your employees. You will never know what level of support your sandwiched employees need if you never talk to them. Have a conversation. Invite them to tell you what support they need, and what will make their lives easier. A simple conversation will go along way to comfort your employees, lessen their stress, and save the employment relationship.

2. Provide a combination of flexible work schedules and paid family leave. These benefits, if they make sense for your workplace and your employee’s specific job, will do more than anything else to lessen their stress and anxiety over their  temporary home issues. Never underestimate the gift of time.

3. Offer child care and elder care benefits. Child care and elder care is frighteningly expensive. Keep your employees at work more by offering benefits that will ease this financial burden, or at least offer referrals to qualified caregivers.

4. Act as an informed resource for your employees. Be not only a shoulder on which to cry, but a road map to help employees keep their work lives and their personal lives on track. Offering an Employee Assistance Program is great starting point.

Through the past few weeks, the one thing I never worried about was work. Yes, it was present. I checked emails via my iPhone, spoke to my office as needed, and handled mission critical matters remotely. But, I also knew that my co-workers had my back, and that I would not have to return to the office until I was ready to return to the office.

I am so grateful to my firm that it knows how to handle Sandwich Generation employees. Does yours?