Caregivers take on enormous responsibility within their households, caring for small children, seniors or both. Remote work can relieve some of the stress from managing personal and financial obligations if caregivers have the tools they need to telecommute effectively.
8 Work-Life Balance Tips for Caregivers Who Work Remotely
When your family experiences a transition, either through coping with changes to health or ability, bringing a new baby into the family, or moving in a senior family member who needs additional support, the dynamics of your work and personal lives can become volatile.
There is a misconception that childcare is the primary form of care provided by most adults in the U.S. The National Caregiver Alliance found that millions of adults 18 years of age and older provide unpaid assistance to seniors with disabilities. The health and well-being of caregivers is of great importance as poor health and economic instability can lead to further strain within households.
Additionally, there is an emerging trend of Gen Xers who provide care for both young children and older adults, leading some experts to label Gen X the “sandwich generation.” The Pew Research Center estimates 47 percent of adults age 30 to 40 care for older adults over 65 or a child; many of these households include both dependent groups.
The compound responsibility required to sustain a family with several dependent groups requires caregivers to balance care with providing financial support for their families. Long-term care is an expense that many caregivers cannot afford, therefore remote work becomes the most practical option for caregivers.
Remote work can help provide the flexibility required to tend to young children or older adults whose needs require a significant time commitment. However, as with any form of employment, balancing your professional responsibilities with meeting the needs of your family can be a daunting task.
Utilize these tips for effectively managing your remote job while providing in-home care for a loved one.
1. Speak Up at Work
Many caregivers feel conflicted about how and when to speak out about the responsibilities the juggle. However, letting your manager know about your role as a caregiver can help you avoid misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations. An article from Caring.com reveals that 28 percent of caregivers keep their balancing act a secret from their employer.
It can be difficult to share your status as a family leader with additional responsibilities for fear of appearing incapable of sustaining your job. However, most modern employers view their employees as complete human beings, rather than as cogs in the wheel, with struggles and strengths. Additionally, your co-workers and manager may surprise you. As noted above, almost half of all middle-aged adults are caregivers in some capacity, making it extremely likely that your superior or a few of peers will have similar stories to share.
It is important to note that not every remote work environment will be the same. You should know your rights as an employee when it comes to caregiving. If you are a full-time employee, you have a right to unpaid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks without the threat of being fired. If you feel as though you were let go because you needed to take time off to care for a family member, you should consult a legal expert about your options.
Once you disclose your truth to your employer, it is also a good idea to practice self-care by seeing a therapist or counselor who can help you manage the stress of your responsibilities. There are options for virtual therapy that can meet your needs for flexibility and convenience.
2. Develop a Plan of Action
When you are caring for a small child or parent, there will be times you need to log-off early, travel to doctors appointments or miss work altogether to manage an emergency. What will you do when something urgent comes up? How will you communicate with your team? Can you anticipate the most hectic days in advance? Ask yourself these questions to help you develop a strategy to manage emergencies.
Additionally, if you are aware of the kinds of allowances you may need, you can discuss these needs up front with your manager and negotiate some flexibility. For example, if you know that Thursdays are difficult because your parent has physical therapy early in the afternoon. Ask if you can start work earlier on this day so that you can be free to assist with his or her care.
3. Prioritize Your Health
One of the most prevalent challenges faced by caregivers is health concerns. Many caregivers are dealing with an intense amount of stress, meaning that their bodies are more susceptible to health problems. Lack of sleep can greatly increase the chances of chronic illness and obesity. Additionally, many caregivers do not give enough time to their own health, skipping yearly health checks, eating unhealthily and allowing tension to build with no outlet for stress relief.
Taking time for yourself may seem out of the question, yet it is actually a necessity to ward off serious health risks. Spending even 10 minutes stretching or doing another form of exercise can boost your mood and provide additional energy to help you take on the demands of your daily life.
4. Enlist Support
If you are a new mother or father, it can be difficult to work while caring for your child. Reach out to friends and family members you can trust. Maybe a friend can help with dinner once per week, or come over for a few hours so that you can work uninterrupted. The first step is asking for assistance. If can be difficult to admit you can’t balance everything on your own, however, this is not a reflection of your capabilities. One of the best things you can do to work more effectively is to build a strong support network.
Not all families have the support of family and friends to help reduce to strain of childcare while working. However, you may be able to find community support through local organizations. If regular childcare is too expensive, consider employing assistance once per week.
5. Consider a Career Change
If you are experiencing difficulty at work while trying to manage your home life, consider transitioning to another career path. There are many options to change the course of your professional life without having to start from square one.
You can consider becoming a freelancer to give yourself the freedom to take on high paying clients without a strenuous daily schedule. It is also possible to work your way into management to increase your earning potential giving you more options for additional support at home such as an in-home nurse or nanny.
There may be times when you recognize you cannot maintain a full-time work schedule. If you do need to reduce your work hours. Consider speaking with your current manager about amending your work schedule. Often employers are open to adjusting your schedule as the expense to hire a new worker can be significant.
Be realistic about what you can manage. If you are leading a team or managing several projects, ask to reduce your workload and offer ways you can help with the transition of responsibilities. It can be nerve-racking to discuss the situation with your boss, however, the alternative; not meeting expectations, could be more detrimental to your career.
If you are a new mom or looking to explore more remote positions as a young mother, there are many options that can provide you with greater flexibility. You can establish a timeline for your transition out of a full-time role to allow your current employer to find a replacement. You can also offer to help train the new associate if this is feasible for you.
6. Set Boundaries
Within your home, you should create a designated space for your working life. It can be a major challenge to limit distractions when your loved ones are home with you throughout the day. However, integrating a realistic set of boundaries that help protect the integrity of your work will help you breathe easier during the day and build your confidence as a telecommute professional. Key boundaries to reduce distraction include:
- Avoiding personal calls while you work
- Converting a small space into a home office
- Establishing times each day when you are not to be disturbed unless there is an emergency
7. Develop a Daily Routine
Establishing boundaries and maintaining a contingency plan are important for long-term success as a remote worker and caregiver. However, it is the daily habits that help keep you focused and performing at your highest capacity. A daily routine builds discipline and strengthens the brain’s ability to stay on task. You will maintain a more even pace and avoid getting off track if you have a daily schedule to keep you balanced.
If you have small children or older adult who are home with you throughout the day, they can benefit from this routine as well. Structure increases feelings of safety and established a level of comfort that can be lacking if lunchtime, naps or daily walks are conducted on daily whims instead of a reliable schedule.
8. Don’t Try to Do It All
No matter how structured your day is and how focused you are, you are still human. This means that as much as you would enjoy being able to balance 100 to-do items each day, this is not plausible. Prioritize your daily activities to focus on the things that help support your family, maintain health and wellness, and create a sense of accomplishment. There will be days that you’ll have to skip a playdate, cancel a business meeting or miss a movie date to preserve your peace.
Although deciding what to let go is challenging, setting your intention for each day and keeping this at the forefront of your mind when you need to make a decision can drastically reduce the chances of becoming overwhelmed. For instance, if you are asked to make an additional commitment, before immediately saying yes, ask yourself if the request fits in with your intention for the day. Will saying yes to this commitment mean saying no to another important task? Evaluate your current priorities to determine if the ask is worth making a change to your routine, or if it is better to decline to preserve your well-being.
Spread the Love
The family is often the main motivation for creating more flexibility at work. The people we love provide us with the joy, energy, and love that help sustain us. Caring for others is one of the most selfless manifestations of love, and this process must begin internally by caring for self. Remote work can be an avenue for increased health, possibility and career satisfaction that allows you to spread more love, spend more time and create new possibilities for you and your family. Join a community of telecommuters who are growing their professional opportunities through virtual work. Become a Virtual Vocations member today.
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