This article is part of WorkLife’s Quiet Workplace Guide, that delves into the quiet working trend, and why leaders need to look beyond the buzzwords to the deeper people-engagement challenges behind them. More from the series →
Caregivers — whether they are parents or taking care of a parent (or both) — are working second jobs on top of their 9 to 5. That means recognition and extra support from an employer could go a long way for folks who are juggling both duties.
The term quiet caregiving is the latest in the rollout of “quiet” phenomenons to describe workplace trends that have always been around but are finally getting a label. Julia Cohen Sebastien, co-founder and CEO of caregiving employee benefits company Grayce, coined the term in an interview with workplace publication Charter. We spoke to her and other workplace experts on the phenomenon.
What exactly is quiet caregiving?
Nearly three-quarters of employees have some sort of caregiving responsibility, but many of them fly under the radar at the workplace.
“This is about all the people who are caring for a loved one, but not talking about it,” said Cohen Sebastien. “A huge portion don’t talk about it because of stigma and fear of retribution and a sense that they won’t be as valued at work.”
She says that naming it is the first step of acknowledging that it exists. For example, there was a stigma about talking about mental health in the workplace for decades, but in recent years, employers have implemented ways to support employees’ wellbeing. Cohen Sebastien thinks the same can and should happen when it comes to caregiver support.
“Now we can finally acknowledge it exists and do something to address it,” said Cohen Sebastien.
What are the consequences of quiet caregiving and how does it tie into other company goals?
If employers don’t acknowledge how much of their staff are also caregivers, it could lead to higher workforce attrition rates and lower productivity. Additionally, if a company is known to not have a family-friendly culture, it could hurt their brand and reputation, resulting in paying more for recruiting and retention.
At the core of it, though, is potentially not having a work culture that fosters belonging. Supporting caregivers is essential to meet goals around diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
“The reason belonging is so important is because it means that you can show up at work as your authentic self and be accepted for it,” said Hannah Yardley, chief people officer at employee voice and recognition solutions platform Achievers.
If someone is going to feel known, included, and supported, it means acknowledging that there are people who also identify as caregivers and that that additional role might impact how they show up at work. According to Achievers Workforce Institute’s 2022 Culture Report, belonging drives three times more productivity, engagement and job commitment.
“When we can acknowledge the challenges that come with being a parent, and we embrace that, then what we’re doing is boosting belonging,” said Yardley. “When people belong, employees are more effective and resilient. For employers, they are more likely to be productive at work.”
Jyl Feliciano, vp of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at sales enablement platform Highspot, agrees. She’s a mom of two and a caregiver to her grandmother.
“Caregiving is now a component of DEI,” said Feliciano. “It was highlighted with Covid as parents had toddlers running around. It challenged employers to ask how to create equity for caregivers, but in a way that doesn’t punish those who are not caregivers.”
How can employers support caregivers?
“Every single one of us is, has, or will be caring for a loved one,” said Cohen Sebastien. “It’s fundamental to humankind.”
Because of that, the first step is for leaders to talk and acknowledge caregiving. It might mean making space for a caregiving employee resource group for people to connect with others about their shared experiences. At Highspot, within their mental health benefits, they offer group therapy targeted for parents who are interested in sharing their experiences and receiving support.
Ever since the pandemic, work and life have blended more and more. Built into that was the ability to work remote and have more flexible work schedules, which can help caregivers greatly.
“They are things we are tackling already and benefit caregivers,” said Yardley. “When you’re tackling some of these big, big things that are changing in the workplace already, it’s a great start to be able to help that segment of people too.”
Aside from offering flexible work hours and remote or hybrid schedules, leaders can also consider what policies and benefits they have in place for caregivers. This includes everything from paid parental leave and child care stipends to emergency day care. It’s something that Yardley says some companies might have on the chopping block as they consider where they can cut corners amid a turbulent economy, but it shouldn’t be.
“Caregivers are not going to want to go back to what was before,” said Yardley. “Organizations are going to need to think a little bit more holistically before they start removing benefits.”