Juggling work and care through a pandemic
According to the NHS, a carer is anyone who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they provide is unpaid. Staggeringly, 13.6 million people in the UK have unpaid caring responsibilities, most of whom also work.
As a result of the pandemic one in four of us juggle work and care. This means that one in four colleagues are not only thinking about Zoom calls, deadlines and providing excellent customer service but also about whether their loved ones are washed, fed and safe.
In the last 2 years alone, 500,000 people (600 a day) have given up work to care for loved ones, because the pressure of doing both is simply too much. As the population ages and the number of carers rise, the effects of carers leaving the workplace are only going to grow.
On top of this, unpaid carers were more likely than non-carers to state that life events, work, access to health care and treatment, and their health had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the general population, the concept of ‘work-life balance’ normally means weighing up when they can fit in time to go to the gym, go for a relaxing walk or see friends. For carers (especially the one third of those who live with the person they care for), COVID-19 has devastated any idea of work-life balance.
There are no longer any boundaries between when one can get the fulfilment of being productive at the office and the duties one has to their cared for.
Carers accessing support - connecting to others
As carers, we often think we’re just being a good friend, child, partner or parent and that we don’t fit the label of 'carer'. Maybe we think there’s someone providing more support than us. Or that because we have support from friends, family or paid carers our responsibilities are 'trivial' , but this is unhelpful, and means we miss out on support.
If you cook, provide a listening ear, run errands, look after the finances and admin for someone else , no matter how few hours you feel you do, or whether you are helped by other people , you are a carer, and are entitled to support.
We at Curo frequently hear from carers that nobody knows what it is like to be a carer, other than carers themselves. With this as our focus, we’ve launched our platform for unpaid carers to connect to each other and experts to share resources, tips and connections, and support each other to better juggle work and caring for a loved one.
The community enables you to:
- Get emotional and practical support when caring gets tough - by joining other unpaid carers and experts (such as therapists) to discuss topics relevant to you.
- Hear from people who know what it’s like to be in your shoes, with our matching service that connects you to other carers most similar to you for 1-to-1 chats.
We look forward to welcoming you, or anyone you know, to our community. If you’re interested in signing up, please follow this link.
Three ways to support working carers
Caring is tough in the best of times, let alone amidst a global pandemic. It’s vital that carers get the support they deserve.
The majority of carers work, and the stressors of caring and working are detrimental to both the working carer and the employer - Curo believe that enabling employers to better support their employees who care is the most effective way to support this talented group of people.
Employers who are interested in supporting their colleagues who are working carers should aim to:
Help carers self-identify as carers. Most people who care for loved ones don’t think they are carers. They believe they’re simply doing the day-to-day tasks like shopping, cleaning and cooking that any good family or friend would do. In turn, this means they miss out on vital support they could be entitled to.
Support employees with flexible working arrangements so that working carers can attend appointments and emergencies. Carers frequently have to deal with caring responsibilities during work-time. Allowing for flexibility reduces the dual pressures working carers face, and enable carers to remain both present and engaged with work.
Facilitate spaces where people can share personal experiences. Cultivating an in-person or, increasingly, digital space for carers to connect is relieving and empowering.
Curo can help any aspiring organisation with these support areas and many more. If you are interested in supporting your staff who care, please check out our website to learn more, or contact Matt on firstname.lastname@example.org to talk further.