As a Marketing Executive, I have always asked myself, “How would I respond? Why would I purchase? Does this speak to me personally?” when I approach content, messaging and all the other traditional nuances of marketing. Now, leading the marketing efforts at a company offering employers an outcome-focused platform for their employee caregivers, I have found it easy to simply look inward to prove the validity of the demands on the informal employee caregiver and the critical importance that employers address such.
Employers know that addressing the family demands around employee caregiving is an important benefits issue. The Northeast Business Group on Health reports that 56% of companies surveyed rank caregiving benefits as a top 10 priority. How does an employee handle acute or chronic care situations for their family and remain a fully productive and engagement employee? How does the employer avoid the legal issues of replacing a strained employee? How directly does compassion equate to the bottom line and does good will gain market share?
Meet Marketing Mary
If you are still unclear as to how the varied demands of “caregiving” can impact just one single employee over a career, I give you two examples in the life of “Marketing Mary.” Mary was just 30, a management consultant, married, and had no children at the time. She was a fairly recent MBA graduate and caring for anyone was the furthest thing on her mind. Mary’s father-in-law was suffering from early stage dementia and cared for at home in another state. One day, out of the blue, Mary’s mother-in-law suddenly and horrifically died of a heart attack. One unexpected event thrust Mary, her then husband and his adult siblings into a foreign world of actively caring for an ill elderly father, addressing a complex estate situation, managing everything out of state, and navigating regulatory and legal avenues. All parties involved were also balancing difficult emotions, starting families and working full time jobs during this chaotic and long period of time.
The result? Extreme stress, deteriorated health for some, extremely drawn out and painful processes, negatively impacted family relationship, and a great deal of time out of work for the young adults. Mary spent many hours during workdays doing research, as well as time off related to this family situation, as did the others - some of them more than her.
Meet Marketing Mary 16 years later. She is employed in a full time executive role, is married and has two teenage boys. While her children demonstrate no learning or social difficulties, she’s often exhausted by the everyday demands in today’s world related to parenting: screen time battles, over scheduling, homework, bullying situations and the growing influence of alcohol and drugs within her eldest child’s high school peers - a particular concern to her given the history of addiction in her family. Mary daily shakes her head that even “easy” parenting is hard and that it feels like amateur hour. She looks at her friends who are fighting for their child’s 504 plans in school or whose child has a diagnosed challenge; she can’t imagine the addition stress they feel. In addition, her only mid 50s husband underwent cancer treatment this past Fall. Her parents in their mid-70s are still in fairly good health, even though she witnesses some decline. But as an only child, she knows the day is coming when she will be caring for her parents in some capacity too. Today, however, her days are entirely filled with a demanding career role, teenagers and her husband’s care. The concerns about all three of them in her head 24*7, as is the case statistically with most women her age.
These are just two time periods in Mary’s 30s and 40s that are real, challenging, complex, and demand every ounce of energy, emotion and time from her. She did not and does not go to work and check her family concerns at the door. She can’t find the additional energy to give 100% to work, if she is sacrificing her own sleep and wellbeing to care for others. Yet, given the demands in both these situations, others have had to come first at times. She needs time during the day to make tedious phone call for her family, if that information isn’t provided to her in an efficient and appropriate manner otherwise. Mary is not in a position to quit her job, nor does she want to. She loves to work and she loves her career. But as we all know - family comes first. So in these situations - unplanned and just simply life - Mary will sacrifice her own personal time and sleep to simply ensure everyone can be given the attention they require. In reality, some days, she knows that no one is getting 100% of her.
I am an Informal Employee Caregiver
I know the impact of these demands to be true, as I am “Mary”. I am your company’s modern employee caregiver. I am a mom, a daughter, a wife and family member. I am an employee and a manager who is passionate about the success of her company. I adore my job and am also 100% loyal to my family. I am completely maxed out. And thankfully, I now work for a company that is completely strategically aligned with how to support and guide its employees to best support home and the office.
My story echoes the lives of your employee parents and adult children today. Are you prepared for the impact that the stressors in your employees’ lives has on your company? Are you aware of the challenges that your workforce faces? Are you managing your employee benefits in a manner that supports not only corporate goals, but also employee life goals?
I challenge you as a family member, as a manager and as an employee - ask your employees and your fellow executive team members - “What worries you today? What truly weighs you down today?”
Their answers may be eye opening...and something to which you can personally relate.