What is it?
Informal caregivers are those who care, in any capacity, for a loved one, family member, or friend outside of their paid job. People who need longitudinal care often rely on this type of assistance. A significant portion of full-time health care workers, both clinical and non-clinical, are also informal caregivers.
Flexible work arrangements help informal caregivers fulfill external responsibilities
Informal caregiving has historically been stigmatized in the workplace. Because of this, many informal caregivers feel embarrassed to raise the issue of external responsibilities for fear of being judged or penalized. As a result, managers don't know about employees' external responsibilities and tend to not provide support or flexibility. The stress of trying to fulfill both external and work-related responsibilities places informal caregivers at a heightened risk of burnout.
Flexible working arrangements benefit both employers and employees. Employers can create resources to help managers lead difficult conversations and more easily craft working arrangements. By reshaping the employer-employee relationship to focus on transparency and trust, such arrangements can destigmatize informal caregiving.
Details of specific working arrangements should be documented. As employees move within the organization, new managers will then be aware of the employee's situation. This alleviates the need to renegotiate work arrangements repeatedly.
How a flexible working arrangement for informal caregivers helps improve retention
Day-to-day job responsibilities in health care can be extremely taxing. With informal caregiving duties on top of that burden, many employees are at risk of burnout.
Pulled in two directions by their jobs and caregiving responsibilities, these employees are often late to work or may miss shifts altogether—and they have little time to care for themselves. Over time, they may be forced to leave their jobs, to the detriment of both the health system and the employee.
Flexible work arrangements can alleviate that stress. And this helps the organization retain staff with valuable knowledge and skill, and it reduces the cost of turnover.
How flexible working arrangements for informal caregivers can improve ‘system citizenship’
Normalizing and codifying flexible working arrangements for informal caregivers signals that the organization cares about their employees' responsibilities outside of work—and their overall well-being.
This can lead to increased employee engagement, which is critical to a health system's mission. Engaged employees are more successful at meeting their goals and contributing to the system as a whole. They are more likely to support the organization and get on board with change initiatives—which helps staff, the organization, and (most importantly) patient care.