his morning my husband forwarded me an email from the CEO of his nonprofit about their return-to-office plans.
He was supposed to go back this month. But as his CEO said in her email, Delta decimated their efforts to “be compassionate and give people time to readjust.”
And then she said this: Even though a poll of their office shows that over 90% of staff are fully vaccinated, “we have staff with young children at home, elderly parents, and immunocompromised family members and we do not want to put them at risk.” So they are pushing back their return-to-office date.
As the parent of two amazing human beings that aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, yet, I still get goosebumps when I read that. Because in those few words I feel seen and heard. Between those beautiful lines I read, “We are not just worried about our bottom line or you, our staff member, but we’re worried about your family, too” and “We recognize you have responsibilities and obligations beyond our walls (whether brick or virtual).”
COVID is shining a spotlight into the home lives of our colleagues (after all, you literally have a tiny technological window into their homes). It’s reminding us that caregiving is a reality in all of its glorious forms, from young children to older parents, from sick spouses to injured friends.
Historically, caregivers have been an invisible part of the workforce and suffered significant career losses. Take a look at these pre-COVID statistics from the Family Caregiver Alliance:
- More than 1 in 6 working Americans report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend;
- 69% of working caregivers caring for a family member or friend report having to rearrange their work schedule, like decrease hours or take unpaid leave, to meet their caregiving responsibilities;
- Ultimately, 39% of caregivers leave their job to care for a loved one;
- Caregivers 50+ who care for their parents lose $3 trillion in wages, pensions, retirement funds, and benefits.
None of those statistics even includes working parents, which make up over one-third of the workforce – that’s over 50 million employees (Source: HBR). Add them all up and that’s a lot of caregivers (my bad math suggests over 77 million) sacrificing their careers and livelihoods to do, arguably, one of the most important jobs on earth.
While COVID is reminding us of the realities of caregivers, it’s also amplifying the already-existing disparities they face. This is especially true among marginalized groups within the caregiver ranks, like women and single parents. Roughly 700,000 parents, most of them women, left the workforce to care for their children in 2020 (Source: The 19th). I can’t even figure out how many other types of caregivers had to leave their jobs – my Google searching skills haven’t been able to get past the deluge of articles about parents leaving the workforce.
So with the struggles of caregivers in mind, that forwarded email was refreshing as a sea breeze in my inbox this morning. Kudos to my husband’s CEO, and all those other amazing leaders out there who are taking steps to think about and support the whole person that is each and every one of their staff members, inside and outside their buildings.
Why I Am Writing About This
I am privileged to work from home. And incredibly fortunate to also have flexible hours, a phenomenal supervisor who knows both my children’s names and takes time out of staff meetings to ask them about their day, and understanding clients who happily wait while I dole out bedtime kisses during strategic planning meetings. And we already know how I feel about my husband’s nonprofit (I didn’t even mention the other things they’re doing, like giving everyone extra time off). It is my hope that every employee, whether nonprofit or for-profit, has the same opportunities my family has to be loving caregivers and still rock their jobs.
If you are a leader in your organization and want to explore ways you can make your nonprofit more supportive of its caregivers, check out these great resources:
AARP: How to Support Employees Who Are Caring for Others
UNICEF: Greater Support Needed for Working Families
Family Caregiver Alliance: Caregiver Statistics, Work and Caregiving
And remember, supporting employed caregivers is not just a COVID thing — they’ve always needed it and will continue to need it as we (hopefully one day) move past COVID.
Is your organization doing something phenomenal to support its staff? Send me an email at email@example.com and tell me all about it!
Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful:
Podcast: Offering Employee Benefits Your Team Will Love with Liz Frayer
Podcast: 8 Proven Ways to Feel Happier at Work with Bea Boccalandro
Blog: $20+/hour Nonprofit Minimum Wage
Blog: Leaders: Try pulling for change!