The following is a brief summary of a research study done by Leslie Binnington, Janice MacInnis, and Brad Meisner, with the help of the Caregiver Support Group at Dal, on caregiver health in the workplace.
Background: There is ample research on caregiver role strain and burden. The build up of daily stressors related to caregiving is known to have a negative impact on caregivers’ emotional, mental, physical, financial, and social health. In addition to these negative impacts, employed caregivers’ work performance (e.g., work productivity, employee engagement, job satisfaction, etc.) can also suffer.
Objectives: The objectives of this research study was to A: understand how caregivers’ health and work productivity may be influenced by caregiving/employee roles at Dal, and to B: explore potentially effective workplace assistance recommendations, from the employed caregiver perspective, for Dalhousie.
Participants: 11 female participants completed in-person interviews, as well as two surveys. One on health and work performance, and another on the negative/positive aspects of the caregiver experience.
Results: For objective A, the results were broken down into three broad themes: “Feeling the Crunch”, “On Vacation, But Not Really”, and “At Work, But Not Always”. “Feeling the Crunch” referred to the challenges negotiating a balance between work and caregiving roles. “On Vacation, But Not Really” referred to some participants taking time off (i.e. vacation days, etc.) to attend to caregiving responsibilities. “At Work, But Not Always” referred to being at work, but being interrupted during the workday by caregiving responsibilities or intrusive thoughts.
For objective B, the recommendations were broken down into two categories: institutional-level, and individual-level. The institutional-level recommendation was a caregiving/caregiving policy that aimed to raise awareness of the issue and decrease inconsistencies in how caregiving accommodations are handled/approved. The individual-level recommendations were: to create a structured schedule, engage in health promoting behaviours (as much as possible), acknowledge and accept one’s limitations, and focus on one’s strengths.
Conclusions: It is clear that the work and caregiving roles interact in a primarily negative and cyclical manner. Employers have much to gain by intervening and improving the situation of employed caregivers.