Caring and Your Career: Juggling the 24/7 Week
Susan starts her day at 5 a.m. so she has a few moments alone to write in her journal. Then, it starts: Getting ready for work, waking her mum, waiting for the home health aide, updating the care worker on the previous night, checking with her husband about which errands they’ll each run at lunch, then finally leaving at 7 a.m.
She leaves the house, but she takes the worries. How much longer will they be able to afford the home care worker? How well will her mother do on the new medications? When will she and her husband have some much-needed private time? When will her boss grow tired of her requests for a longer lunch break and an earlier work day?
Susan did her best to get 7 hours of sleep last night, but with the worries weighing so heavy that she feels as if she hasn’t slept in years.
Caring is hard. Caring and working is really hard. Below we outline some simple tips to help you manage two demanding roles that can complicate life. We hope the tips help you manage your experiences so you have minimal regrets.
Managing caring responsibilities while running a business can make one day seem like two. We’ve compiled tips for the small-business owner involved in a caring role:
2 Because caring can be all consuming, determine the times during the day that can be devoted to caring responsibilities. For instance, do you devote a few minutes each morning to checking on your care recipient, time during your lunch to researching options and updating family members, and ending the day with another check-in? What’s reasonable for you, your care recipient and your business?
- Create a back-up plan in case you need to be away from the business because of caregiving. Ask yourself all the “What If?” questions you can think of. When developing your plan, ask for feedback from your board of directors, colleagues, employees (if you have them), your business or carer support organisation
- Develop a portable office which can be transported if needed. Take your portable office out-of-town, to your care recipient’s home, to your home. And, have a back-up of critical information at the ready.
- Know who can help (professionals, family members, friends, neighbours) and how they can help; ask for and accept the help. Your local carer support organisations can be a terrific investment to help find resources and oversee care.
- Prepare for the possibility of a revenue decline. How can you make personal and professional adjustments? And, consider: Can you sub-contract business if caring becomes the priority? Sub-contracting business means you maintain a revenue source and client base but step back on your involvement. Sub-contracting can work if you use the right sub-contractors (research and check references) and if you communicate effectively with clients.
- Develop a message to use with clients and employees to use for an extended leave or unexpected change in schedule. When a crisis occurs, you may be choked with emotion. Prepare now for the future, when you may have to explain your situation. Your message may be as simple as:“My mother is not doing well. I’m taking time off to take care of her.” Then, tell employees and clients what they can expect while you’re gone (i.e., tell them what your back-up plan is).
- Train others to help; keep an open mind when delegating responsibilities. Consider this an opportunity to build your referral network and to empower employees. Communicate your expectations and be available when you can.
- Remember the Three Be’s of Caring: Be Prepared, Be Honest, Be Well;
- Forgive yourself for any bad days; give yourself a fresh start the next day. And, consider: In five years, when you look back at this time, what actions and decisions will make you proud?
James needs to leave early today to pick his father up from the adult day centre. Typically, the centre provides transport but today the van driver is out ill leaving the centre without a replacement. James’ boss has agreed with his early departure, but James can feel that patience is running thin, not only from his boss, but also from his colleagues.
James’ colleagues are his age (late 20s), but they have no family responsibilities. They say they understand his need for a bit of flexibility in his schedule, but he wonders if they really do. And, today is the day before a huge project is due so temperaments are particularly testy. It’s just bad timing all around.
Holding down a job while providing care can be a tricky balancing act; it can be feel like Your Boss vs. Your Care Recipient. How do you avoid losing a battle with both?
Keep in mind these quick tips:
1. Understand your company’s benefits and policies. More companies offer progressive benefits to help employees caring for children and other family members. Benefits may include help finding resources, lunch-time seminars, subsidised back-up care, flex time and counselling services. Check with your Human Resources department to learn if your company offers any benefits.
2. Understand national legislation that can help you.
3. Communicate effectively with your boss. Explain the caring situation, how you plan to manage it, and ask for feedback. You may start a discussion this way: “My father is not doing well and is now living with me. I have hired help and organised my family to assist to ensure my father is okay while I am here at work. It’s possible that I may encounter a crisis because my father’s health is unstable. What would be the best way for me to handle any crisis with you?” You also may want to ask your boss for suggestions on how to communicate this situation with your colleagues.
4. Ask colleagues f they have cared for an aging relative while employed with the current employer or know of others who have. Ask for suggestions on how they managed the situation.
5. Know who can help (professionals, family members, friends, neighbours) and how they can help; ask for and accept the help. A carer support organisation can be a terrific investment to help find resources and oversee care.
6. Create a back-up plan. Ask yourself all the “What If?” questions you can think of. When developing your plan, ask for feedback from family, your friends, your support group, your local care support organisation. If appropriate, colleagues and management may be able to offer insights.
7. Set limits with family members and care recipients about your availability during work hours. Perhaps you determine you can be available during your lunch hour to field calls or for a few minutes during the afternoon. (Of course, during a crisis–and you may have to define “crisis” as others’ definitions may differ from yours–you are always available.)
8. Forgive yourself for any bad days; give yourself a fresh start the next day. And, consider: In five years, when you look back at this time, what actions and decisions will make you proud?