COVID-19: Supporting a colleague with caring responsibilities

Lizzie Buxton

Written By AdviserPlus

29th June 2020

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During the current pandemic, many people will have had to provide more support for their children and elderly parents than normal.

As lockdown eases and some businesses are trying to return to some sort of normality, those employees with caring responsibilities will continue to need more support from their line managers and employers.

The importance of supporting employees with balancing work and caring commitments

Balancing work, home life, childcare and caring for elderly or vulnerable relatives has certainly been a challenge for many people who have continued to work during this pandemic. For those who have been furloughed or who have had their hours reduced temporarily, they may still need to care for others. It’s likely some employees may be concerned about their capacity to perform to their best and equally, they may be concerned that they’re not providing the right level of care for their children or relatives when focusing on work.

Supporting employees at this difficult time will pay dividends in terms of increased loyalty and productivity in the longer term, but it will also help reduce potential absences and the risk of resignations from those struggling to balance work and caring responsibilities. It may be possible to identify new ways of working that could be just as successful and could create efficiencies which will continue long after the pandemic is over.

How can managers help employees?

There are a number of ways that a manager can support their team members.

  1. Be accepting. Accept there will be disruption and try to be empathetic and understanding.
  2. Offer assurances. Employees may be concerned about the security of their job and so it’s important, where possible, to reassure them that their job is safe. If this isn’t possible then provide regular communications and feedback and demonstrate that that their contributions are valued.
  3. Open communications. While working from home, it’s easy for employees to feel isolated and so two-way conversations are more important than ever. Group huddles work well as they provide an opportunity to bring team members together and have some fun. It doesn’t always have to be work related either. During 1-2-1’s, create a culture of openness and encourage employees to raise their concerns, including those relating to caring responsibilities.
  4. Be more aware. Continuously look out for subtle signs and changes and be more aware of employees’ mental wellbeing. For example, if an employee is saying that they’re constantly tired, this can be a sign of anxiety or depression. Provide employees with access to mental wellbeing support and don’t be afraid to remind employees of this support and continue to do so.
  5. Know your teams. Do you know which of your employees are parents? Are any of them single parents? Do any of them have elderly caring responsibilities? To best support employees, take time out to reach out to them and understand their circumstances, how they’re coping and what support they may need.
  6. Offer flexibility where it’s possible. It can be a huge benefit to employees to have the flexibility to work and meet their caring commitments, and it can also reduce any stress they may be experiencing. Ways to work more flexibly may include changing working days and hours, short bursts of hours over a long day, working weekends, or a change in tasks.
  7. Encourage work/ life balance. When working from home, it’s important to encourage employees to switch off mentally and physically. Employees who fail to have that work/ life balance run the risk of becoming withdrawn, tired and will eventually burn out.


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