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11 Jun 2024
by Catherine Blanchard

How to help the sandwich generation maintain a healthy balance

Practical ways, such as mental health support and financial wellbeing benefits, to support the sandwich generation

How to help the sandwich generation maintain a healthy balance.jpg


Demographic and societal shifts are placing increasing pressures on the so-called sandwich generation of middle-aged adults who care for their children as well as their elderly parents. It currently accounts for about 1.3 million people in the UK but is rising all the time. Many people facing these responsibilities are also in middle management/leadership roles and consequently have more chance of burnout. 

Conflicting caregiving demands are forcing this generation to reconsider full-time working. They may also be feeling the crunch from the cost-of-living crisis and high interest rates enticing them to look elsewhere for a higher paid role. To keep hold of this talent, your organisation will want to look at ways support these employees in helping them get through these difficult times and manage their work/life balance. 

What life events are they dealing with? 

Case study
Laura is a valued and productive member of your marketing team. She is 46, married, and has two children. Her father passed away unexpectedly last year, and she is dealing with his estate – which is particularly complicated as he lived abroad. Her son is preparing for the 11 plus, and her daughter is experiencing bullying at school and refusing to attend.

Laura’s mother, 75, has just had a hip replacement and, while she is recuperating from her operation, Laura visits daily to help her with bathing and preparing meals. Laura’s mother is becoming forgetful. She is on a waiting list to be seen by the memory clinic and will likely need home care in the coming years.

Laura is perimenopausal and struggling with symptoms at work. Her husband travels frequently with work and is unable to provide support, which is taking its toll on their marriage. 
Practical ways to help: 

  • Encourage an open and mutually supportive work environment, where employees can share their experiences and seek help without fear of repercussions, so that Laura can speak to her group/team manager about her experiences and feel heard and supported. 
  • Offer, encourage and lead by example in having flexible and sustainable ways of working, such as flexible working hours, remote working, job shares and a culture of not responding to emails outside of office hours. In this scenario, working flexible hours would help Laura with both the symptoms of her perimenopause (including lack of sleep) and as she juggles caring for her mother and children, while handling her father’s estate.
  • Offer a ‘midlife MOT’ with a combination of benefits providers (financial, pensions, Will writing, life event consultants) for employees aged 45 and above, to review how they can plan for the future (university for children, retirement, planning for care costs etc). 
  • Consider a carer flexible leave policy, in addition to the government’s one week of carer’s leave every 12 months, recently brought in under the Carer’s Leave Act 2023. Consider additional paid leave or allow a certain number of days per holiday year for emergencies or planned medical appointments. This would help when attending the memory clinic with her mother and to ensure her daughter goes to school on a day she flat out refuses. 
  • Provide employees with access to back-up child and eldercare. This would be useful when Laura’s scheduled work commitments cannot be avoided.
  • Promote the employee’s physical and mental health wellbeing. A 2019 report by the Office for National Statistics found that 33% of those in the sandwich generation claim their mental health has been adversely impacted by caring commitments). This could include medical insurance, wellness or wellbeing apps, counselling as well as targeted bespoke support for life moments such as bereavement and divorce etc. Physical health can be promoted with schemes such as cycle to work, reduced fees for health clubs or at home subscriptions. 
  • Provide bespoke support services and benefits. For Laura this could be a needs assessment for her mother, helping with the estate administration for her father, sourcing after school tutoring for her son or reviewing and comparing local emotional resilience courses for her daughter. 

Supporting your sandwich generation employees to manage their work/life balance and through significant life events, will help them have more energy and focus at work and hopefully encourage them to remain in their important role in your organisation.

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