What Is the Sandwich Generation and Its Effect on Today’s Workforce


The previous few years have been each illuminating and near-impossible for folks. However past the shadow of Covid, among the many numerous systemic issues going through caregivers at work, corporations have a rising mission-critical inhabitants on their fingers—one they might not even have thought of given the trajectory of the previous couple of years. Enter: The Sandwich Generation, in any other case often known as adults concurrently caring for ageing mother and father whereas both elevating younger kids or financially supporting grown kids. 

The world of advocating for caregivers at work is one I reside in day by day because the co-founder of Superkin, an advisory agency serving to corporations design extra fashionable and holistic support for parent and caregiver workers. However the demand for extra intentional and sturdy worker advantages for caregivers is changing into a main problem in workplaces of all sizes and industries across the nation. 

What’s the Sandwich Era?

The Sandwich Era is the 11 million people (and counting) who take care of ageing mother and father whereas additionally elevating younger kids or financially supporting grown kids. They’ve turn out to be one of many quickest rising worker segments. In truth, based on AARP, more than 1 in 5 adults are now unpaid family caregivers. And, as millennials are set to turn out to be the largest cohort in the workforce by 2025, they’re additionally gaining floor as the biggest cohort throughout the sandwich era. Millennials’ profiles are totally different from earlier caregivers: they waited to get married and begin households. So whereas they’re of their peak incomes years, they’re additionally managing care for folks and caring for youthful children. As 10,000 baby boomers turn 70 every day, it’s the right storm. 

How the Sandwich Era impacts society

Whereas the Sandwich Era is unprecedented, it’s not completely unexplained. There are a number of components at play that made this particular mixture of caregiving so prevalent:

Today, 60% of households are dual-income, compared to only 25% in the 1960s
Ladies are extra employed and their salaries are extra influential than ever. In line with Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood survey report, nearly half of at present’s moms (47%) are the first breadwinners, whereas additionally shouldering the vast majority of the unpaid labor at residence. In truth, the vast majority of main income-earning mothers (70%) are liable for scheduling medical appointments for everybody within the household, even those that say they’ve companions who share family duties equally—these mothers are creating and managing calendars, kids’s schedules and actions, and coordinating childcare on high of being the first breadwinners. 

Historically, a single-income family with a male breadwinner meant moms labored throughout the residence, tackling childcare and all family labor with out a lot paid assist. Now, with the vast majority of each mother and father within the workforce, capacities and schedules are stretched thinner than ever, because the infinite home labor required to boost a household is added to full-time work outdoors the house with out the presence of a “designated home accomplice.” It’s a win-lose: girls are pursuing their careers and schooling at historic ranges, however nothing has been accomplished to alleviate or subsidize the quantity of unpaid labor that is still essential no matter who has time to do it.

The current cost to raise a child through age 17 is $310,000
The monetary impression of getting and elevating kids is at a historic excessive, and eldercare companies and amenities additionally at peak ranges. Households who could have simply afforded quite a lot of totally different childcare choices previously could now be paying high greenback for a state of affairs that doesn’t even supply protection for a full working day. Equally, the Sandwich Era is commonly tasked with navigating the fee and logistics of securing eldercare for ageing mother and father, an expense that many is perhaps financially ill-equipped to pay for. We’re instructed to save lots of for retirement, however what about after-school packages and summer season camps to complement daycare hours? And the place does the cash for reminiscence care or residence well being assist come from when a retired mother or father is on a modest, fastened revenue? 

All of these items mixed means there’s now one large group of workers who will now require extra empathetic management, workday flexibility (each in-person and on-line) and systemic company assist than ever earlier than. 

The impression of caregiving within the office  

One of the vital heartbreaking experiences related to the sandwich era is many say they undergo in silence. Amy S., SVP at a Fortune 500 firm reveals, “It’s one factor to be a working mother. Dad and mom bond over footage of youngsters, commiserate about sleep schedules and child tales may be humorous and relatable. However when your mother is within the ICU for 3 weeks, and also you’re navigating the place and the way she’ll reside afterward, it will probably carry on disgrace or guilt at work, like ‘isn’t there another person to try this work?’” Managers usually are at nighttime that their workers are elevating children and caring for ageing mother and father. In truth, a recent HBS survey shows that just about 75% of workers have some type of caregiving duty, whereas these in management positions assume it’s solely 25%. 

We’ve solely begun to scratch the floor on offering assist for workers who’re liable for each their kids and ageing mother and father. The Sandwich Era is carrying successfully double the workload and psychological load while you account for sick days, accompanying relations to appointments, persevering with care, whereas additionally balancing a profession and private life. With out ample assist from employers, many within the Sandwich Era really feel that managing the monetary, emotional and bodily burden of caring for his or her kids and ageing mother and father usually feels inconceivable. Even along with her mother within the hospital close by, Amy S., stated she felt invisible. She was shocked with the overwhelming feelings that emerged as she managed her mother’s sudden analysis. “Parenting your mother and father comes with some heavy baggage that you just’re hardly ready for.” 

How leaders and firms can assist the Sandwich Era

Retention closely depends on the best way groups react in occasions of worker disaster. By proactively making a system now that may soak up and accommodate the rising flexibility caregivers within the Sandwich Era will want, leaders may have the power to say “Do no matter you want” the following time a staff member must step up for his or her household. As a result of flexibility is nothing with out the liberty and encouragement to truly use it.

1. Monitor caregiving standing 

When you consider championing variety and inclusivity on groups, the caregiver id can’t be missed. Monitoring caregiving standing as a part of a staff’s demographics is an effective place to begin.Today, only 12% of companies are currently measuring this. It’s additionally necessary to grasp the large diploma to which caregiving duties can differ, all the best way from enjoying protection in opposition to sniffles throughout chilly and flu season to adapting to cognitive or bodily disabilities. 

2. Verify in often together with your workers

Create area to have conversations concerning the altering wants of staff members. This verify in doesn’t need to be an hour each week, however simply sufficient to grasp what your staff’s altering bandwidth could seem like. Offering simple encouragement for staff members to take the time they want for physician appointments (and respecting when they’re out-of-office) is a superb first step.

3. Institutionalize flexibility

Don’t deal with flexibility like a perk. Entry to flexibility at work shouldn’t hinge on whether or not you may have an honest supervisor or not. Employers needs to be intentional about the best way they provide and facilitate work environments. Caregivers usually tend to must take time without work, are available late, depart early or verify in on somebody at residence in the midst of the day. 

4. Socialize advantages that assist caregivers

Applications like FMLA and PFL exist to guard caregiving workers. Employers ought to flow into their insurance policies round paid household depart and different comparable packages so that everybody has equal entry to the knowledge. Have worker useful resource teams (ERGs) or are contemplating including a caregiver worker group? Now is a superb time. If you wish to ensure that your organization is updated with insurance policies, advantages, ERGs or assume it wants a 2023 refresh, Superkin can help.

5. Practice your individuals leaders to adapt

Workplaces don’t look the best way they did 10 years in the past. Encourage leaders to create a formalized plan for protection when a colleague has to take time away for caregiving—whether or not that’s for just a few days or an prolonged time period (and per #4 above, socialize it!). The earlier your managers really feel assured of their skill to acknowledge and assist Sandwich Era workers by way of clear, empathetic management, the higher. The best way to advocate for your self at work

The earlier your managers really feel assured of their skill to acknowledge and assist Sandwich Era workers by way of clear, empathetic management, the higher. 

The best way to advocate for your self at work

Feeling the pressure of being a part of the Sandwich Era? Even in case you’re not caring for ageing mother and father together with kids, there are many methods to begin asking for extra of what you want as a caregiver who works outdoors the house. You won’t really feel completely comfy speaking together with your employer about this, however making even small modifications in pursuit of supporting caregiving workers continues to be progress.

1. Be sincere and upfront about your caregiving duties 

As a lot as you are feeling you possibly can share what’s happening at residence, conserving your direct supervisor up-to-date can go a good distance in getting the assist you want. And whole groups can really feel the advantages of much less stress and extra compassion when transparency round particular person capability is inspired. 

2. Be conscious when planning staff check-ins or different key conferences

In case your regularly-scheduled conferences battle with “conventional caregiving hours” like college drop-off and pick-up, take into account talking to your supervisor to shift to a time block that’s mutually agreeable.

3. Use the assets obtainable to you 

Do your employee-sponsored advantages embrace psychological well being protection? Authorized counsel for issues like property planning? FMLA or PTO days you aren’t maxing out? All these components are a part of your compensation, and also you shouldn’t really feel responsible utilizing them. Individually, if FMLA isn’t an choice, look into state or native insurance policies or have a sit-down together with your group to see if one thing may be accomplished (versatile office, diminished hours, and so on).  

4. Ask for assist while you want it

It may be onerous to confess when you find yourself overwhelmed, however elevating the flag early and infrequently is essential to keep away from being overwhelmed when balancing work and caregiving. 

5. Nominate your office for a caregiver-support audit

Superkin was created to information organizations in direction of strategic, sustainable options for supporting caregivers at work. In case your office wants slightly further love in that division, you can nominate your org anonymously for Superkin to achieve out to with some tactical suggestions. 

The Sandwich Era changing into the vast majority of our workforce has the potential to create a wave of constructive change. To be able to recruit and retain at present’s high expertise, corporations shall be confronted with a rising want for versatile schedules, compassionate administration and employee-sponsored advantages associated to baby and eldercare. And, the organizations who adapt appropriately will pave the best way for a extra sustainable future for mother or father and caregiver workers—a future that pays off for corporations and workers alike.

This story is part of The Motherly Collective contributor community the place we showcase the tales, experiences and recommendation from manufacturers, writers and consultants who wish to share their perspective with our group. We imagine that there isn’t a single story of motherhood, and that each mom’s journey is exclusive. By amplifying every mom’s expertise and providing expert-driven content material, we are able to assist, inform and encourage one another on this unimaginable journey. If you happen to’re curious about contributing to The Motherly Collective please click on here.

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