“When we think about care in the workplace, we traditionally think about childcare. What has been largely overlooked are the people who look after the elderly or someone with a long-term chronic illness. There simply hasn’t been any support within workplaces to support and retain carers,” says Stephanie Leung, former regional director for EMEA at Uber and now cofounder of care tech platform KareHero, which provides personalised support for carers and their employers.
In our Startup Life newsletter, Stephanie gives us her top tips for caring for carers at work.
Acknowledge care means more than just childcare
In the UK, the working population now supports more adult dependents (people over 65) than child dependents (people under 18). Adult caregiving responsibilities can take up anything from a few hours a day to north of 40 hours a week. This is on par with childcare responsibilities — and some people are doing both. Ensure there is a company wide re-evaluation on what care means.
Create space for open conversation at work
Adult caregivers may feel like they can’t talk about their caregiving at work — their experiences can feel messy, very personal and ongoing. Unlike with children, the situation tends to deteriorate, not improve, over time. They may feel a stigma attached to talking about it: Will it impact them getting a promotion? Will employers question their dedication to their jobs?
Bring caring out into the open and create a platform to have these discussions. For example, you could bring in a guest speaker, have a lunch-and-learn, create a roundtable on how to support carers at work or, if you’re a bigger organisation, create a carer forum for peer to peer support. Most adult caregivers don’t even realise they are adult caregivers and have rights — provide them with a definition, with the support of experts.
Develop holistic HR policies
Create official support for carers at work — either by building in house infrastructure or using a care platform. Hold your employees’ hands through the caregiving journey — from early preparation (if that’s possible) all the way through to the end. Where possible, help them navigate the logistics of care, admin work and funding options that might be available to support them.
In the UK, the Carer's Leave Bill coming into law this year will allow employees to take up to five days of unpaid leave from work every year to care for an adult family member. You should see this as the bare minimum. When employees ask for leave to care, direct them to other benefits that could help. For example, do you have a flexible working policy that means they don’t need to take unpaid time off?
Financially support carers
As an employer, help employees by including the costs of adult care as a ‘benefit-in-kind’, in a similar way to childcare vouchers. Also consider allowing learning and development budgets or other benefit-in-kind budgets to be spent towards the costs of someone needing to look for care for a loved one — an incredibly expensive endeavour. This extra mile can help with employee retention and attracting talent.
Train your managers
Just as managers get mental health training, they also need carer training — they need specific toolkits to manage employees at different stages of the caregiving journey. Managers need to understand:
How (and how not) to run a startup.
- Company policies and support options
- How to put company policies into practice
- What resources they can provide or direct their reports to
- How to have conversations.
Don’t expect any of this to be a given — carer conversations can be extremely sensitive. It’s important for managers to be able to hold open, safe and confidential conversations. Make sure all of this information is also easily available in your company wiki.
On the subject of... caring for carers
👀 10 care tech startups to watch.
💰 Revolutionising the care sector isn’t an altruistic goal. Tech startups are well aware of the opportunities in a sector that has shown itself reluctant to change.
🫂 HR needs to support carers better. This two-part series explores the challenges carers are facing — from deteriorating health to cycles of bereavement — and how companies can support their employees.
✍️ If you’re a carer, these six tips are for you. Care tech startup Birdie has a whole host of resources on its blog to help carers and employers.
🏋🏿 Workout at the emotional gym. “Beyond having good coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety, depression, self-doubt and a series of curveballs that are completely out of your control, a founder must be able to form and maintain good relationships,” says Dr. Emily Anhalt, cofounder of mental health platform Coa.