By Lisa Bonacci, vice president, human resources operations, UPMC and committee member for the United Way Community Impact Strategy and Action Plan Committee for Seniors
The need for family caregivers is steadily growing. It’s likely that everyone will serve as a caregiver at some point in their lives.
While we love our parents, grandparents, children, or whomever we might be caregiving, the job of a family caregiver is time consuming. Care is often needed during the day, which can be difficult for those of us who work full time.
After being a caregiver for my own parents, it became a passion of mine to support others who were doing the same for a loved one. Fortunately, UPMC felt the same way. We hopped on board with the United for Caregivers@Work program, working with United Way to make our workplace more caregiver friendly through various resources, discussions, and trainings.
Transforming your company into a more caregiver-friendly place has to be a team effort that starts from the ground up. From your CEO to the entire management team, everyone needs to be on board.
Step 1: Communicate resources. It is critical to develop a database, brochure, or online site that offers easy access to information about caregiving. For larger companies, this might be through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP); it might be links to information for smaller businesses. We found that family caregivers usually see themselves as “family” and do not identify with the word “caregiver.” Making sure quality information is readily available to employees can help them start taking advantage of available supports.
Step 2: Maintain a healthy environment. Create a healthy environment where employees feel valued and supported. This may include having to undergo some transformation, like shifting the mindsets of managers. Offering training and discussion groups may help assure managers that flexibility promotes employee engagement, which directly affects customers, profits, and employee retention.
Step 3: Manage work-life balance. Once your managers are on board, it’s important to allow staff to manage their work-life balance. For larger companies, it might be a more formal process for flexibility and policy changes, while smaller businesses might be able to offer a more relaxed process. Either way, this will help employees be more productive and focused in the long run.
Step 4: Adopt a new culture. Once these things have become a part of your company culture, it is critical to maintain them. Keep your resources or EAP updated with the most recent information. Make sure new managers go through training and continue working with current managers as they adapt to their new management method. Promote a healthy work environment every day where employees feel supported and comfortable sharing experiences.
For me, working for a company that shows such strong support for their employees motivates me to be a better worker. Consider implementing these steps into your company culture—I guarantee you’ll see the change.