Juggling work with caring responsibilities
It goes without saying that this year has been particularly challenging for those of us with caring responsibilities. Given the need to shield the elderly and vulnerable from the virus, carers have had to shield too as part of their “bubble”. Some workers are lucky enough to be able to work from home, but many others do not have that option. As a recent report from An Unequal Crisis underlined, carers (as well as those they care for) are at an increased risk of redundancy as a result of the impossible position they have often found themselves in during this pandemic.
In this difficult climate, then, let’s have a look at some of the ways to juggle work with caring responsibilities.
Communication is the natural first step. It may sound obvious, but make sure your employer and colleagues are fully informed of your situation – it may be that they are able to help in more ways than you might expect. It could be possible, for example, for you to work from home, or work flexible hours – so that you can fit your work around your caring responsibilities in a way that might not have been possible before. It might also be possible to work part-time instead of full-time, to get the balance right.
Flexible working policies are now increasingly widespread, and are being adopted across more companies and industries than ever before. The advantages of flexible working policies for carers are clear to see: both in terms of your own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those you will be more able to care for. Carers can take heart from research showing that flexible working may be a lasting reality, both now and in the future. Research from Direct Line, for example, shows that HR professionals expect some form of flexible working to be in place for 70% of the workforce even after COVID-19.
But even if measures such as these are not possible, the simple act of communicating your particular situation and needs with your employer can be liberating. It will help to manage their expectations, and give you the breathing space you need – without worrying that you’re letting people down.
Look after your mental health
Communication can also be beneficial for your mental health, as you will be able to receive support from colleagues. It can sometimes feel as if you are alone and without help, so it’s important to reach out.
In the same vein, it’s important to reach out to friends, families, and even charities for support. Caring and working at the same time can place an immense burden on your mental and physical health, so it’s important not to forget to look after yourself, too. Your first priority is, of course, to look after your loved ones, but the best way to do this is to make sure you’re fully fighting fit yourself.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but if the opportunity comes to take a break, you should do so without feeling any guilt. Even 20 minutes here and there can do a world of good for your mental health. Don’t be tempted to catch-up on other chores during these times, though. Give yourself permission to spend time on your own interests. You could sit and read a book, watch TV, or even do nothing – whatever it is you need. You will then return more refreshed for the challenges of the day.
Support is available
Juggling work with caring responsibilities may seem impossible, especially in the current circumstances, but help is available. Charities such as Carers UK are available to provide assistance and advice for carers across the country. If we’ve learnt anything from this difficult time, it’s that the human capacity for selflessness and compassion is as strong as it has ever been.
Image at Unsplash