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24 Oct 2022

How to help unsqueeze the sandwich generation

Benefits such as hybrid working or parental leave can go a long way to easing the pressure on those who find themselves looking after parents as well as children

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Employee stress is at a new high in 2022, according to a Gallup survey. But for the ‘sandwich generation’ this stress is even higher. But there are steps employers can take to help ease this burden.

The sandwich generation is the group of middle-aged adults who care both for ageing parents and their own children at the same time. This can put immense pressure on this group financially and physically.

In Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report 2022, employee stress hit a new high of 44% overall, up 1% from 2021, while employee engagement was at 21% and life evaluation where employees were thriving was at 33%. However, the stress level for all people aged 40 and upwards was 39%.

The financial burden placed upon the sandwich generation can be telling. According to the Pew Research Centre, 28% of those supporting parents aged 65+ (in the US) ,when asked, felt they were living comfortably, against 41% of those who didn’t have parents to support.

“In the UK, about 3% of the population is providing care for more than one generation” says Athina Vlachantoni, a gerontologist at the University of Southampton.

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The effect of 'sandwiching'

However, the term “sandwich generation” can also apply to people younger than 40 years old.

Older generations are more financially secure when compared to the younger/sandwich generation who might be taking first steps on the career ladder or be halfway up it. Those who are more affluent will be able to handle situations like care assistance more easily than those who aren’t.

For those who aren’t affluent, this situation can mean that younger generations, who, for example, might not be best placed to get a mortgage, might find themselves moving in with ageing relatives to look after them.

Vlachantoni says more than half of 16-29 year olds in the UK that moved during the pandemic, moved in with older relatives out of necessity. This has a knock-on effect where the younger generation have difficulty forming romantic relationships or have their independence affected greatly, making them feel as if they are missing out on getting the best out of their early stages of life.

In some cases, employees have had to quit their jobs to look after ageing relatives, making them miss out on career steps altogether.

How employers can help ease the squeeze

Of course, the government can offer help to the elderly, but this only goes so far, especially to those who struggle financially. Employers, however, can ease the burden on employees by providing them with benefits that help on a family level as well as individually and there are plenty of ways in which a company can do this.

One of the positives to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic was the introduction of hybrid/remote working. This means employees have some flexibility about where they work, how they work, and sometimes when they work.

It also means that relatives will have someone to help them when they need it. Employees are more likely to stay in a job where they know the employer is looking out for them and their relatives. There are other benefits such as insurance and pension plans that could extend to other family members, which takes away some of the financial burden from the sandwich generation.

Flexible working is most valued

The best way companies can address these problems is through HR technology which provides platforms where all benefits can be accessed. According to Carers UK, flexible working is the benefit most valued and one that has become easier for companies to offer since hybrid/remote working was introduced.

Other benefits are being considered, such as grandparental leave and other allowances such as extra days holiday or even a four-day week. Whatever an employer chooses, they will need HR technology to support them to cut administration and boost employee communication.

The bottom line is to help those who feel they find themselves trapped in the sandwich generation with nowhere to turn and this help shouldn’t have to come at a huge expense for employers or employees.

A simple thing such as hybrid/remote work could make a difference to many employees, as well as making some benefits applicable to an employee’s family members.

Original article: How can companies help the stressed-out sandwich generation?

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