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The sandwich generation: help them address these 3 pain points

Published by: LifeWorks,

It’s important to consider how each generation differs when you create an employee well-being strategy.

This is especially true for the sandwich generation. These employees are mostly middle-aged and responsible for caring for both the generation before and after them. Each sandwich generation employee has their own unique circumstances.

A January 2013 survey from Pew Research Center found that nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. What’s more, 15 percent of them are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

Between raising their children and caring for their aging parents, these employees are juggling a lot of responsibilities on top of their work. And this has a huge impact on their well-being and productivity.

To help them manage their stress, you need to step into their shoes. Here are the biggest obstacles sandwich generation employees face:

Feeling rushed

Among Pew survey respondents with a parent aged 65 or older and a dependent child, 31 percent say they always feel rushed. This is not surprising.

Between running to school and extracurricular activities for their kids, and taking care of their parents, your employees are going to burn out. This is especially true if they’re overloaded with more work than they can realistically handle.

How to help:

Connect employees with respite care services to ease the burden of caring for their parents. These short-term, temporary services are designed to give the caregiver added support — a much-needed break that can help reduce their stress.

Also, encourage a supportive environment by starting caregiver support groups. Sandwich generation employees can share their experiences and learn how to better manage their responsibilities at home and at work.

Offering flexible work arrangements can also take some weight off employees’ shoulders. For example, if their parent is undergoing surgery and physical therapy, allowing them to work from home makes managing this period of time easier. They might actually be more productive if they’re not wrestling commutes on top of everything else.

No time for self-care

Another major employee well-being problem occurs when your staff doesn’t take the time to take care of their own health. They might be so involved in their caregiver role that they neglect their own wants and needs.

In fact, the Pew survey found that among all adults with a living parent age 65 or older, 35 percent say their parents frequently rely on them for emotional support, and 33 percent say their parents sometimes rely on them. What’s more, 38 percent say both their grown children and their parents rely on them for emotional support.

How to help:

Promote self-care practices throughout the workday. For example, assign a specific timeframe during when employees can step away from their desks and relax for 15 minutes.

Also, host mindfulness training and promote other emotional well-being activities that are fun and creative. For example, give your employees subscriptions to meditation apps, then host a contest for whoever meditates the most days in a row.

Financial burdens

The costs of helping kids and parents can be debilitating. According to the Pew survey, among those who provide financial support to an aging parent and support a child of any age, just 28 percent say they live comfortably. And 30 percent say they are just able to meet their basic expenses.

These financial burdens can often delay their retirement and hurt their emergency savings plan. Unexpected expenses along the way can leave your employees buried in debt.

How to help:

Create a financial wellness program that includes initiatives to address these specific stressors. Stress kills employee well-being, so it’s best to proactively address it.

Promote benefits, like budgeting workshops and financial coaching services, so your sandwich generation employees can take advantage of them before they fall into financial ruin.

Also, offer reimbursement plans for medical costs. For example, a healthcare reimbursement plan (HRP) is designed for you to reimburse employees for health insurance premiums. This can cut cost immensely for your staff.

Another financial goal they have is saving for their children’s college. Set them up for success by teaching them about 529 plans.

Improving employee well-being for the sandwich generation is a unique challenge. But with the right strategy in place, your employees will not only feel valued and understood, but also healthier and happier in their day-to-day lives.

Make your employees feel loved