DEV Community

Cover image for How can leaders better support primary caregivers?
Brian Bethencourt for The DEV Team

Posted on

How can leaders better support primary caregivers?

Primary caregivers — like those caring for children, elderly, or ill family members — often face unique challenges. Their work doesn’t end when they leave the workplace. Emergencies are more likely to arrive, so what happens to their responsibilities then?

It’s critical to promote a caring culture in our workplaces so that we can support caregivers when they need it. While many institutions may not have policies that penalize or hinder caregivers, these policies are often developed without caregivers' needs taken into account.

What can leaders do to better support primary caregivers?

Friendly reminder to follow the Code of Conduct in this discussion. The DEV Team and I will moderate swiftly and thoughtfully. ❤️

Please share any helpful articles on this topic in the comments below!

Top comments (3)

krlz profile image
krlz • Edited

Offer them more flexible work hours so they can prioritize their caregiving duties without worrying about their work. There could be also some caregiver-friendly policies that support them with paid leave, job sharing, or remote work options.

Beyond that, a supportive culture that provides counseling or mentorship programs and access to support networks would have a great impact. We must also provide caregivers with access to resources like child care, health insurance, and social services to ease their burdens and of course empathy by checking in with them regularly and offering our help whenever they need it.

mihneasim profile image
Mihnea Simian

When we had discussions in our organisation on coming back to the offices, on remote/on-site ratio, on flexible work-hours, i loved hearing this from a leader: People need a personalised schedule that fits their life.

And maybe not just the schedule, but also their development plans, their targets, their on-call etc. In a sane workplace, each leader creates a personalised way of work with each member of the team. Reach a level of trust and acquaintance, have both needs transparent (manager, and member of the team), so development plans, targets or work schedule can be accommodated to best serve both individual, and team.

So yes, 1:1-s are key.
Not a one-size-fits-all. But maybe I got too much into technicalities. As a culture, only empathy can make us listen and adapt to the other one's needs; maybe the only reason why leadership will always be personal.

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

Great topic! I have a few thoughts on this...

For one, I believe there needs to be a plan for caregivers somewhere in an organization's employee documentation. It's helpful to have a place that clearly communicates things like maternity/paternity leave, any family-oriented benefits, and their stance on flexible schedules. I think it's helpful if leaders proactively make a statement about this to potential hires during the hiring process, offering this information up front so that folks can look through it and know what they're getting into.

All this said, it can be difficult to document everything and leaders need to communicate. Leaders should listen to their team's needs and be flexible with the rules, speaking with their teammates 1 on 1 to ensure that each individual is working a schedule that meets their own personal needs and everyone else's needs. I think this comes down to good communication... a good leader should regularly speak their team, reminding them about caregiving benefits and letting any caregivers know that they are very much appreciated. If a caregiver has to leave on the fly because of an emergency, a leader should have a plan in place so that there isn't too much strain on the team. A leader should not make a caregiver feel guilty about having to adjust their schedule.

Lastly, I think an empathetic leader will keep an eye out for burnout in all their teammates, but definitely those that are caregiving; we know that caregivers regularly have a whole lot going on; their hours outside of work are often invested in providing care to others. This constant work/care cycle often means that they have less time to relax and care for themselves... this can lead to burnout. Leaders should approach these situations with empathy and try to create systems to prevent the burnout before it happens — give the employee half days here and there, or let them take off on whatever day they need it most, remind them that it is absolutely okay to take off for emergencies. If burnout occurs, a leader should give their teammate time to recover, but also talk through the situation with the employee empathetically, letting them know that you want to help support them and you know that if they go right back into the same environment it could happen again.