Hold the Mayo–How to Help the Sandwich Generation Work

Kathy Rapp Audacious Ideas, Benefits, Change, Change Management, Communication, Corporate Social Responsibility, Culture, Current Affairs, Driving Productivity, Employee Engagement, Engagement and Satisfaction, Generations, Good HR, HR

I have a young daughter who, like most, is a non-stop source of energy and fatigue for me and my husband. Between school, camps, athletics, UIL, Girl Scouts, CAD class, and the guitar gathering dust in the corner, there is a significant shortage of downtime.

Add to the mix aging parents, geographic distance, two demanding jobs, and a 90lb rescue lab who can’t be alone and shakes uncontrollably at the threat of thunder. It’s no wonder Spec’s employees know me by name.

And here’s the deal–I have it easy, I have 1 kid. I have flexibility in my job. And while our aging parents are dealing with weekly doctor appointments, surgeries, and forgetfulness (love you, mom!), none of them have Alzheimer’s or a life-threatening cancer diagnosis.

That said, so many people I know are struggling with the whole “sandwich generation” chaos and how to manage family obligations, particularly with aging parents, and work.

It’s a real thing and it impacts health, wellness and productivity.

What are HR pros doing–or should we be doing–to address sandwich generation needs?

Chief People Officer, Ashley Goldsmith, at Workday writes about being part of the sandwich generation as a caregiver:

I have frequent conversations with employees who face similar experiences. We’re able to exchange stories, relate to one another’s perspectives, and share solutions. All of this has helped me to be a better caregiver. And given my role, I’m not only able to hear about what impacts the daily lives of our employees, I’m able to take this feedback into consideration when advocating for the benefits and support Workday provides to all caregivers“.

She’s been able to rally backing for services like Care.com, MyLifeCoach via Optum, flexible time-off policies, and return to work programs for those who had to pause careers to be primary caregivers.

At hrQ, we too have flexible time-off, paternity leave and sabbaticals, but likely aren’t doing enough for the aging parent side of the sandwich. The intense emotional strain that comes with working through issues like when it’s not safe to stay in your home, when to take the keys away, when a home health aide is required to administer meds, or when it’s time to move to assisted living, are not easy conversations to navigate with parents who changed your diaper and picked snot out of your nose.

And guess what? That emotional strain means less sleep, more tension, and absolutely impacts performance at work.

Why wouldn’t we be paying attention and putting just as much thought and resources towards helping our employees help their parents as we do throwing baby showers or ensuring we provide orthodontia coverage?

So, hold the mayo–our parents’ arteries don’t need the extra cholesterol, but do focus on what we should be doing to support our sandwich generation employees help their aging parents.

I want to hear what you’re doing in your organizations. Hit me in the comments.