Insights Discussion: How to Help Your Parent and Caregiver Employees in Times of Crisis [VIDEO & RECAP]

By Perceptyx - June 05, 2020

In this week's Perceptyx Insights and Research discussion, we focused our discussion on supporting the needs of employees with caregiving responsibilities. For a significant number of employees, the unexpected and extended adjustment to a remote work situation as a result of COVID-19 has introduced unique challenges around caregiving. Employees who were previously responsible for only a small set of tasks and deliverables, or at least had discreet home and work spaces to focus their efforts, have now been put into a situation where they must balance professional and caregiving responsibilities like never before.

Megan Steckler, Senior Consultant with Perceptyx, discussed this topic with three HR leaders: Kate Feather, VP of Culture and Engagement at Lincoln Financial Group; Laura Sherrill, Manager of Employee Engagement for Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated; and Corey Stevens, Director of Program Management at WPP.

One message has remained consistent throughout our discussions of addressing employee needs: In order to address their needs, one must ask what those needs are and not assume. Our panelists agreed that survey results revealed useful, practical insights into the unique needs of caregivers. Survey results showed increased anxiety for caregivers, instances where resources vital to doing work were not available, and provided insight into how policy could/should be adjusted to accommodate the needs of caregivers, including adjusted emergency leave policies that allow paid leave for those struggling with balancing caregiving responsibilities.

Take a Servant Leadership Approach.

The most effective leaders listen to their employees, recognize the importance of serving others, and act accordingly. Because your leaders are the linking points between your employees and the rest of the organization, it is important that leaders at each level understand what is expected of them in terms of serving, listening, and responding to the concerns of their caregiving team member(s). Furthermore, supporting, empowering, and motivating those leaders to adapt to caregiver needs in this environment starts by setting the tone from the top.

Laura Sherrill of Coca-Cola Consolidated shared how the strong culture of her organization starts with servant leadership from the top, setting the foundation for leaders throughout the organization and giving them permission to extend flexibility and understanding for caregivers when they need it. But this only works when we understand caregiver needs through feedback data collection and caregivers speaking up. “Don’t go unspoken about your needs and what you are doing to get everything done,” Laura shared. She emphasized that checking in on each other while still working in adjusted or remote settings is a crucial part of helping each other through these times, and to preventing bad habits forming along the way.

Kate Feather spoke about how the CEO of Lincoln Financial Group communicated three key messages in response to COVID-19: 1) Lead with protecting our people, their safety, their well-being, and health, 2) Sustain and grow our business, and 3) Do our best for America. Kate pointed out that the first point was especially important because it was a top-down message that gave leaders permission to take a compassionate approach to managing the needs of their teams. This messaging drove home the message that not only did leaders have permission to behave according to the best interest of employee health and well-being, but it was an expectation directly from the C-Suite.

Give Your Employees Permission to Take Care of Themselves.

Company culture is the outward manifestation of the expectations, assumptions, and beliefs held by those with the most authority and influence. The culture of some organizations either implicitly or explicitly encourage employees to put the needs of the business over their own personal needs. This is never the trademark of a healthy culture, and this is especially true today.

Corey Stevens of WPP spoke about how survey data drove the decision to encourage leaders and employees to be flexible with the time necessary to attend to the needs of children and aging parents, allowing time for employees to handle visits to the doctor or other essential activities.

Preserve Compassion. Preserve Connection.

Now is a time for leaders and team members to show compassion for those working beside them. Our panelists encouraged establishing relationships and cultures in which emphasis is not placed on the amount of hours put into working, but on the quality of the deliverables and outcomes of work. This promotes environments in which teams balance effectively leveraging the right sets of skills and resources necessary to accomplish the goal, allowing caregivers to accomplish better work in less time, so they can use the time left over to take care of the needs of those around them.

Laura Sherrill of Coca-Cola Consolidated discussed how discussion with her manager allowed her the opportunity to set the right boundaries for her to be most productive, which essentially involved blocking out designated private times throughout the day when she would not be accountable to anything work-related, allowing her to tend to the needs of her children and others around her. Setting boundaries has become an especially important part of relationships between managers and employees.


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Q&A - Unanswered Questions

Q: Are you having conversations in your organizations about the political unrest that is dominating the news?

  • A: Kate Feather, Lincoln Financial Group: Yes, we are having conversations about the political unrest dominating the news. Our Corporate Leadership Group (the top 80 leaders in the company) are having a facilitated panel discussion with four African American leaders who are sharing their personal and professional stories to raise awareness and empathy for the racism black and brown people experience every day in America.

Q: Are there any online mental health or counseling services you recommend for caregivers specifically? If so, how are your companies supporting this, both financially and culturally?

  • A: Kate Feather, Lincoln Financial Group: Our EAP program offers counseling and resources for parents and caregivers. We have numerous communications from leaders asking people to take advantage of the resources we have on offer to support with mental health and wellbeing. On a practical note, one of the most valued benefits in recent weeks has been our on-demand educational tutoring service aimed at kids K-12 to get additional support – at any time – with any school subject.

Q: How many hours of additional PTO is Lincoln Financial Group offering during the pandemic?

  • A: Kate Feather, Lincoln Financial Group: Our Emergency Leave policy allows employees to apply for up to 80 hours of additional paid time off to care for a loved one or in the event of contracting the virus.

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