How COVID-19 Impacts Caregivers and Work-Life Balance
Many employers moved to virtual work when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Having to work from home blurred the line between professional and personal life and made it harder for many employees to maintain a work-life balance. This has been especially true for those who are caregivers.
Millions of employees have had to figure out how to divide work and home time. Whether it’s family duties or eldercare, many workers are feeling the pressure.
A work-life imbalance can impact an employee's:
- Professional responsibilities and performance
- Personal life
In a recent survey by McKinsey, only about half of remote workers reported a positive well-being.1 That’s why it’s essential for employers to support their workers. With the right programs and culture in place, employees can be productive and healthy.
“Worker autonomy and support from employers are critical for employees to finding balance,” said Dr. Adam L. Seidner, The Hartford’s chief medical officer. “Finding balance is critical to an employee’s level of company commitment, job turnover and job involvement.”
Benefits of a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance affects many areas of an employee’s life. It’s one of the top three employee needs that can impact:2
Antecedents of Work-Life Balance
Most research sees a connection between work-life imbalance and job satisfaction, Seidner said. Antecedents, or factors, of work-life balance include:
- Business organization, like company policies
- Social factors, such as employee relationships with colleagues and supervisors
- Work autonomy and whether an employee feels like they have flexibility and trust
Being a parent is a consistent family factor that affects work-life balance. COVID-19 added a layer of complications to parents working remotely. They can get stressed trying to meet both work and parenting responsibilities – whether it's attending a virtual meeting or overseeing distance learning.
The most consistent work factor that can lead to work-life imbalance is hours worked. This can impact your employees' job satisfaction and health if they:
- Don't take breaks throughout the day
- Have a longer work day than normal
Disrupting the Work-Life Balance: Caregivers and COVID-19
Caregiving and eldercare are becoming one of the biggest trends impacting work-life balance. Under normal circumstances, caregiving can feel like another full-time job for an employee. COVID-19 can intensify those feelings. With the pandemic, they may be in constant contact with their loved ones, all while trying to practice CDC guidelines, like:
- Wearing a mask when appropriate
- Washing hands often
- Covering coughs and sneezes
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surface
“Family care of persons at home can become an all-consuming enterprise that engulfs a caregiver’s daily life,” Seidner said.
It’s important to emphasize the need for breaks from caregiving, Seidner added. One way to do that is with respite care. This is an alternative care arrangement to institutionalized care and can look like:
- In-home care
- Adult daycare services
- Overnight care
“Caregivers may use respite time to rest, attend personal needs or in some cases, continue their employment,” Seidner said.
Consequences of Work-Life Conflict
Before COVID-19, it was easier for employees to separate their work and personal lives. When they left the office, they could leave their work there and not bring it home with them. But, remote work makes this separation harder.
If your employees don’t have a good work-life balance, they may not feel as happy with their job and want to leave. A poor work-life balance can also negatively affect your employee’s health.
In fact, studies show working over 55 hours a week can increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.3
“People who see work and non-work as two separate spheres tend to get frustrated when they conflict with one another,” Seidner said. “A coping mechanism might be to view your life holistically, where everything is a part of your life.”
How Companies Can Support Employees’ Work-Life Balance
It’s important for businesses to support and encourage employee work-life balance. One way to do this is to embrace Total Worker Health® (TWH) in the workplace. TWH is a holistic approach to worker health. It looks at risk factors related to work and promotes injury and illness-prevention programs to advance worker well-being.4
You can offer programs and benefits to help provide a safer and healthier workplace to advance employee well-being. These include:
- Flexible schedules
- Dependent care flexible spending accounts
- Paid family leave
Employers can also offer employee assistance programs (EAPs). These can help them find care if they’re dealing with a lot of stress. For caregivers, it can include referrals to community programs and contacts to help with eldercare.
Make Sure Your Employees Take Care of Themselves
Staying up to date on the pandemic can be stressful for your employees. Whether they’re listening, reading or watching the news, repeatedly hearing about COVID-19 can be upsetting.
“Extra stress on your employees can lead to fatigue and even burnout,” Seidner said. “Employers need to not only encourage frequent breaks during the workday, but also from any caregiving duties.”
You can encourage your employees to take care of themselves by:
- Making time to unwind
- Doing activities they enjoy
- Connecting with others
- Reaching out to family and friends
- Talking to someone they trust about their concerns and feelings
- Calling their health care provider if stress affects their life or ability to function
It's essential for employers to have a strategy to improve work-life balance. Offering “effective programs and support can keep employees healthy, engaged and productive during an unprecedented time,” Seidner said.
4 National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “What Is Total Worker Health?”
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