3 ways to support the sandwich generation in the workplace

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Many employees now find themselves as part of the sandwich generation — a population of employees who may be caring for their children, but also are responsible for their aging parents. This issue can be further complicated if these loved ones are living out of state and their children need to make decisions about finances, home health aides and other stressful and emotional topics from afar.

As you can imagine, it’s important for employees to have someone to help support them during this time. Your clients are in the perfect position to offer that type of assistance. Here are a few recommendations you can pass along to your HR contacts (or employers) about how to help employees who are caring for loved ones from afar.

1) Offer reminders about available services

It’s likely that your clients offer an employee assistance program or other type of health advocacy service to their employees. Although employees may have been told about the existence of such programs during orientation or enrollment periods, they may have forgotten the types of assistance these programs offer.

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A friendly reminder can go a long way to remind the employee that, just because they personally aren’t dealing with the medical condition, the EAP can still help. Many EAPs can offer referrals for elder care, or a website to access important forms, such as advanced directives. And, of course, EAPs can assist the employee with stress management as they cope with difficult situations.

2) Be compassionate and flexible

If an employee has aging parents who live in another state, there may be times when he or she will need to travel to be with them in person. When this situation arises, employers have a few ways they can help balance work with family-related care.

Employers can consider transitioning some of the employee’s job responsibilities to make it easier to be out of the office. Or, they can determine if a remote work agreement could be a potential accommodation. Allowing an employee to work off-site temporarily benefits everyone, because not only is he or she able to be with family when needed, but they also can be productive while away.

Caring for family members can often result in numerous phone calls. While most of these calls can be made before or after work — and the employee should make every effort to do so — that’s not always possible. For those who sit in cubicles, or don’t have a dedicated office space, small meeting rooms that can be used for phone calls can be incredibly helpful.

As an example, my office building offers a number of small “quiet rooms” that can be used for private conversations. This small quiet room can go a long way to help alleviate some of the employee’s stress — a simple accommodation that may help them remain positive and productive during the remainder of the workday.

3) Use your managers to bridge the gap

It can be difficult to help employees if your clients aren’t aware of how they’re doing. This can often be the case as many HR managers don’t have much, if any, one-on-one time with employees. Encourage your clients to keep in contact with their company’s senior managers to understand the employee’s situation, how it’s evolving and help the manager be supportive and proactive to determine the best solution.

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As a resource for your clients, these simple reminders can make a big difference. The better the support and guidance an employer can offer, the better supported an employee will feel as they manage new stressors and big decisions.

Malone is a nurse case manager for Standard Insurance Company (The Standard). She works with the company’s claims staff on short- and long-term disability claims, including reviewing medical information for reasonable limitations and restrictions, providing education to claims staff about medical conditions and treatments, and connecting with employees and medical providers to review an employee’s current condition.

The Standard is a marketing name for StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. and subsidiaries. Insurance products are offered by Standard Insurance Company of 1100 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon, in all states except New York, where insurance products are offered by The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York of 360 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 210, White Plains, New York. Product features and availability vary by state and company, and are solely the responsibility of each subsidiary. Each company is solely responsible for its own financial condition. Standard Insurance Company is licensed to solicit insurance business in all states except New York. The Standard Life Insurance Company of New York is licensed to solicit insurance business in only the state of New York.

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