June is Professional Wellness Month, which means that it is the perfect time to focus on employee benefits that support working families in finding a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives. Employers should consider how they can support their employees’ overall well-being. Employees who are physically and mentally healthy are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work.
Having a supportive workplace plays an important role for any worker. However, it can be crucial for those caring for loved ones with disabilities. If you are a business owner, CEO, CFO, manager, or anyone who oversees workers in some capacity, chances are 17% of your employees fall into this category, so it is important to be aware of the specific support needs of those workers who are balancing the responsibilities of work and caregiving. Here are some important factors to consider:
Employee Benefit: Flexible Schedules
Consider ways in which you can offer your employees flexibility to allow them to meet both their job requirements and caregiving needs. One way in which to do this is to offer a flexible work schedule. Your flexibility can cut down on sick time taken for appointments and reduce employee stress by lessening concerns over finding care. Another employee benefit may be to decrease the financial burden on your employee for their caregiving needs and decrease distraction while on the job.
Another way to offer flexibility is to allow employees to work from home or other locations whenever possible. At least partly, many employees can work from anywhere with internet access. Caregiving employees are often being pulled in multiple directions much of the time. Allowing remote work can make getting work done much more efficient and less stressful.
A real-life example occurred when my son was first diagnosed with autism. Professionals strongly recommended having him attend an early intervention program for a few hours each day. Transportation to and from the program was not provided. The program’s schedule conflicted with my workday. I was in the difficult position of having to choose between providing needed services for my son and being able to keep my job. When I shared my dilemma with my employer, we were able to come up with an arrangement. They allowed me to take my son to his EI program while continuing to meet my job responsibilities.
This type of flexibility can make or break a company’s ability to retain employees who are caregivers. Additionally, recent studies show that worker productivity, in general, is higher among those working from home.
Employee Benefit: Insurance that Supports Families
Another vital area of support is insurance coverage. Many insurance plans specifically exclude coverage for autism and other developmental disabilities. This exclusion leaves parents and caregivers scrambling to figure out how to pay for the services their child needs.
For families caring for those with disabilities, having insurance that covers their loved one’s medical needs is essential. This type of family support will save them countless hours of time spent on the phone with medical providers and insurance companies. This support, in turn, will undoubtedly increase their workplace productivity as well.
In addition to developmental disabilities, employers should be sure that their employee benefits cover access to counseling and other mental health services as well as other family support services tailored to their needs such as Vitalxchange.
Patience and Understanding
Patience is key. Caring for someone with a disability many times requires extreme levels of patience. Supporting an employee by being patient with them can make all the difference. This support doesn’t mean an employee does not get their job done. It means assuming that they are doing their best with what they have going on. Therefore, being open-minded as an employer can allow for problem-solving rather than blame due to not understanding the situation.
Consider a personal check-in by the employee’s boss to make sure they are doing okay and to proactively brainstorm solutions. These check-ins can take the form of an informal meeting for a few minutes to see how they are doing. Alternatively a more formal sit down to discuss things in more detail may be more appropriate. These “check-ins” are best done in private ensuring that the employee feels comfortable sharing openly without fear of judgment.
Finally, access to other caregivers is another area of support that can make a huge difference. Everyone in life wants to have people to turn to who understand their individual circumstances. Offering employee benefits that make sure to offer a way for employees to connect with others who are special needs caregivers can take away feelings of isolation. This isolation can lead to decreased work efficiency as well as mental health issues.
Jennifer Rainey is a VitalGuide on Vitalxchange, a digital platform that empowers and enables parents to make informed decisions & engage actively in their child’s care by providing them personalized parenting ‘prescriptions’ that match their needs. Check out the Vitalxchange employer page for more information on how you can provide family support for your employees who have children with disabilities.