Caregiving: Skills that Benefit the Workplace

man and his elderly father walkingBy Jaimie Hutchison, MA, LPC

Why are family friendly policies so important? What value do caregivers bring to the workforce?

In the US workforce, 17% are caregivers for adults over the age of 18 and 33% of the workforce are parents of children under 18 who live at home.  One third to one half of the entire workforce have a caregiving role. Many employees report the most time outside of work is spent on caregiving and other issues related to aging parents/others, or raising children. 

At the MSU WorkLife Office, we consult, provide education for and train thousands of faculty, staff, specialists and postdocs per year on issues related to caregiving. In our newly released Well-Being at Work guide, we provide information on supporting parents and other caregivers in the workforce. 

We often discuss the challenges of integrating work and caregiving, but we rarely talk about the benefits that come into the workforce due to caregiving. The knowledge and skills strengthened through caregiving are some of the most crucial skills employees have. Here are a few of the most crucial skills that come from hiring and retaining employees who are also caregivers on your team:

  1. Stress management and flexibility: Caregivers are used to adapting and navigating daily unknows. With children, their likes and dislikes change regularly. For adults, their health situation often requires pivots, research, and re-planning. With both populations, being flexible is key. Navigating stressors is frequent and strengthens skills of negotiation and boundary setting.
  2. Self-Motivation: This is a hard trait to train if it is not already present. This skill takes time to evolve. Caregivers report working to be more efficient at work and at home in order to complete all of their priorities inside and outside of work.
  3. Communication: According to Dr. Phil Gardner’s Recruiting Trends, communication skills are in the top five most sought-after traits by employers. Communication skills are crucial in caregiving. You are the advocate for someone who may not have the capacity to care for themselves, which makes it your role to be sure to advocate on their behalf and to track multiple important details regarding their health and wellness. 
  4. Empathy: Empathy is crucial to building a cohesive team. When employees put effort into trying to put themselves in their bosses, clients, or coworkers shoes, they often come to resolutions to issues that arise quickly. They lead with compassion and contribute to a workplace culture that is welcoming and inclusive. 
  5. Navigating Uncertainty: The ability to organize, delegate, trust others and ask for help is important when navigating the needs of the person you are caring for. Strengthening these skills is an asset to any employer in an ever-changing and evolving workplace.
  6. Trust and Integrity: Integrity fosters trust.  Caregivers have experience advocating for those they care for. This means that they need to be both trustworthy and have a strong sense of integrity. Children look to parents and caregivers as their role model, and adult children of elders report feeling a sense of responsibility to do right by their aging parents. These skills transfer to the workplace and contribute to a healthy team culture. 

These strengths are just the starting point. Other important skills include:  a sense of humor, emotional intelligence, a big picture view point, organizational skills, time management skills, agility, compassion, observation, patience, cleanliness, and assertiveness. By supporting caregivers in the workforce, you show that you value them as a whole person, and in return, your organization benefits from the skills they have strengthened in their role as a caregiver. 

For support and education around caregiving for children or elders, contact the MSU WorkLife Office at worklife@msu.edu. Consider joining our Family Affinity Group (focusing on parents and caregivers of children) or Adult Caregiver Affinity Group (focusing on those who care for an adult over 18, including aging parents on a part time or as needed basis). Are you a soon to be parent or caregiver? We have breastfeeding and infant care classes scheduled for the fall semester. For more information on fall programming, visit the MSU WorkLife Office calendar each semester.