As I was researching for topics to write for this months insights, I came across the term ‘Sandwich Generation.’ Now I have heard of the Gen X, Y, Z and Millennials but this was new to me. Apparently the Sandwich Generation is a growing population, generally in their 40s and 50s, who are "sandwiched" between their aging parents, their children and work. Children of baby boomers are now in their 30s, 40s and 50s, their prime earning years. They may have gained leadership positions in their workplaces.

The Sandwich Generation is bigger than you might think. Nearly half of adults -- and 60 percent of the workforce -- are caring for aging parents or disabled adults, according to studies by MetLife and Pew Research Center. And it is this generation group of employees that are feeling the most pressure of work and home, and in hindsight this too is effecting employers as corporations are losing a lot of money each year in diminishing productivity costs dues to personal related issues.

If companies want to remain competitive in the market they must recognize the need to be responsive to the needs of the Sandwich Generations. Employers can and should get proactive about tracking senior care needs within their companies and offer resources to assist employees with these issues. This can be tied back to employee retention as it makes good business sense in maintaining employees’ productivity on the job.

With that in mind, here are a few ways companies can meet the needs of their Sandwich Generation employees.

Invite the Conversation
Employers should openly address the issue in departmental meetings and in one-on-one meetings with employees. A stressed-out employee might try to hide their struggles for fear of being fired. If an employee is missing work unexpectedly, shows signs of lack of sleep or seems distracted and stressed, reach out to offer support and educate them about available resources.

Be Flexible
Having the flexibility to balance responsibilities at work and home is huge for Sandwich Generation employees, who could be dealing with both child care needs and senior care needs. Flexibility is key. An employee needs to know it is ok to leave work a little early should the need arise and feel the fear of losing their jobs. This will go a long way allowing employees to find the work-life balance that allows them to focus to be more productive.

Financial Planning Assistance
As if managing personal finances wasn’t hard enough, this generation may have a mortgage, while also helping pay college tuition and managing their parents’ estate. Access to financial planning allows employees to work care-giving related costs into their plan and better prepare for the future.

More than a quarter of the Sandwich Generation lives with the pressures of work and family by bringing work home, giving up on sleep and trimming social activities on a daily basis – a response that raises the chance of employee burnout. Both men and women in the sandwich category miss more days of work per year than their colleagues. Male caregivers miss 13.4 days, and female workers 19.4 days, compared with 7 days for men and 10.6 for women who aren't caregivers. (Sources: "Balancing work, childcare and eldercare: A view from the trenches"; Statistics Canada)

The better the support and guidance an employer can offer, the better supported an employee will feel as they manage new stressors and big decisions.

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