by Kathy Kirchoff
Almost one third of the adult population is performing a caretaker role, averaging 20 hours of care a week; that’s equivalent to another part-time job. And the percentages are climbing (57 percent in 2004 vs. 65 percent in 2009). Are you one of these caregivers?
According to the Caregiving in the United States, Executive Summary:
- 7 out of 10 people in a caregiver role are employed.
- 66 percent of working caregivers have a flexible work schedule or have taken time off during the day to deal with caregiving issues.
- 20 percent took a leave of absence.
- The average caregiver is 48 years of age.
Juggling Two Life Roles
Caregiving can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you also have full-time work responsibilities and children still living at home. Some choose to reduce work hours, take a less demanding job, give up work entirely, turn down a promotion, lose job benefits, or take early retirement.
To cope, you may need to make changes to your job. First, make sure you explore flexible work options offered by your company, such as flexible work schedules, job sharing, compressed workweek, telecommuting, or unpaid leave. Here are some helpful tips before you speak with your boss:
- Consider your employer's point of view. It is not your employer's job to make it easier for you to balance work and personal obligations. When discussing flexible work arrangements, it's best to present your proposal in terms of benefits for your employer.
- Build your skills. People who are most likely to be offered work accommodations are those who are considered to be the most valuable employees. Make yourself someone that would be difficult to replace. According to a report released by the Council of Economic Advisers, higher skilled workers often have greater flexibility.
- Think small. Companies with 50 to 99 employees are most likely to provide careers that offer flexibility. If your company has at least 50 employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may entitle you to unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
If your current job doesn’t provide enough flexibility, you may need to consider a career change. Contract work or working from home may provide the flexibly you need. Some careers to consider include consulting, real estate, direct sales, writing, IT, web design, online or phone work, accounting, data entry, or medical coding. Visit ISEEK to explore career options that may offer flexible work.
Fortunately, more companies are taking the work and life balance issue seriously and realize that the need for flexibility is growing. A happy, less-stressed employee is more productive. There are policies in place regarding work flexibility too.
Learn more about the resources available to help you balance work and caregiving. You need to also take good care of yourself and should not hesitate to find help to cope with your complex responsibilities.