The Great Divide

There’s a new trend with my coaching calls now. A lot of them highlight the “great divide” between employees who are caregivers and employees who are not, and the differences in their respective stay-at-home challenges. 

Stay-at-home orders have really brought out the unique challenges experienced by those who are caregivers and by employees who are not. 

In many cases, caregivers are under a great strain from trying to hold down a demanding job now that the caregiving they had established is no longer available. Parents of young kids and even teens are filling the role of educator, entertainer, and babysitter. Employees are losing their personal space and valuable alone time. Many are staying up late to catch up on their own work. Some feel like they are letting important work projects slip, missing deadlines, and that their work isn’t up to its usual quality. Their kids may be whining or glued to a screen for the 16th hour in the day. 

And it’s not just caregivers with kids. There’s another group of employees who are caring for the elderly and disabled. They are providing care without the support of home health care options. They are terribly concerned about these most vulnerable members of our society who may be their own family members and loved ones.

And then there are those, many of whom have hearts the size of an aircraft carrier, but due to their age, life decisions, and living situations, are not currently caregiving. Just because they aren’t caregiving, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own individual challenges. This group may be stressed from boredom, lack of social interaction, or insomnia. While they have a ton of work, after numerous weeks of sheltering in place, the resentment may be growing. They may be feeling isolated — feeling like emails are going unanswered for what seems like days or like no one is chatting back in their chat rooms!

What a strange and unbalanced world we live in.

Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Just worry about yourself. Do your very best to take care of yourself, your loved ones, and your work, in that order. Assume that your colleagues are doing their best as well.
  • Put yourself in other’s shoes. Ask your colleagues what their days are like and how they are struggling. Then listen with a big heart. 
  • Offer to read children stories or to play virtual games to help the caregivers.
  • Offer to pick up medications for the elderly.
  • Stop working all the time. Set work hours and keep them. Even if you can work all the time, it’s not a good idea.
  • Send a meal or meal card to your colleagues who are struggling.
  • Appreciate your colleagues repeatedly. All of us need to know that our work is appreciated.
  • Realize that this problem isn’t happening just in your department, in your workplace, or in your industry — this is common everywhere right now.
  • Set five 1-minute reminders throughout the day to close your eyes, turn your attention to your breath, and be aware of your body and how it’s feeling. Appreciate yourself and others just as you and they are.
  • Practice compassion, tolerance, and acceptance — and then practice it some more.

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