The Surprising Support Your Age Diverse Team Needs During Uncertain Times
Blog post by Heather Tinsley-Fix, AARP
November 18, 2022
Who was in your most recent team meeting? You probably know which ones are parents, whether of young kids or college students. Chatting about kids as part of the small talk before meetings start is a truth universally acknowledged. Now picture those same team members again. Do you know who is caring for an adult loved one? Likely, you don’t. One in five full-time workers in the U.S. is a caregiver for an adult family member. Over half don’t even tell their supervisor about their caregiving responsibilities.
Now pick someone from your last meeting who you think may be taking care of an adult loved one. Did you just picture a woman in her early 50's caring for her parent? Most people do. It’s stunning to realize that one in four family caregivers is age 25-40, and 6% are under age 24. Early career family caregivers may have responsibility for a sibling who has a developmental disability, a spouse with depression, or a grandparent who lives alone nearby. They are likely to provide years, not months, of care for their loved one. A full 40% are likely to be men. If we look, we’ll find that family caregivers are hiding in plain sight across all ages on every team as you kick off the new year.
Managers have an opportunity to embrace this experience that is shared across their age-diverse teams by hosting AARP’s free Prepare to Care virtual event for your team.
Many employees don’t know where to turn for caregiving guidance and they come to work stressed about this issue. In fact, the first workday of the New Year is a peak day for online searches for caregiving resources such as assisted living, in-home caregivers, and local support organizations. Many employees don’t know where to turn for caregiving guidance and they return to work stressed about this issue. In fact, the first workday of the New Year is a peak day for online searches for caregiving resources such as assisted living, in-home caregivers, and local support organizations.
Embracing a Prepare to Care program for your team creates value for your age diverse team at three key levels. First, it increases the level of trust between manager and employee. Managers create a sense of psychological safety when they provide direct, timely support for an employee’s work-life integration. Second, it strengthens connections across team members. The natural inclination of family caregivers is to support each other. When team members across a range of ages come together to support each other on personal matters, their level of engagement and connection increases in their professional collaboration too. Younger workers may well be farther along their own family caregiving journey than an older colleague and can mentor colleagues of all ages. Older workers may already have experience navigating a career path while parenting and can encourage younger family caregivers on their team to craft bolder career goals even while caregiving. Third, it builds the manager’s skills in how to lead and develop team members of all ages who are navigating work and all types of caregiving.
Harvard Business School research tells us that 73% of current U.S. workers are currently caring for an adult, a child, or both. Some managers will choose to see this as a risk to their team, based in stereotypes of younger workers as parents and older workers as family caregivers. The best managers, however, will see caregiving support as a critical element of developing a high performing team that is, by definition, full of caregivers of all ages and types.