Being a carer can be hugely time-consuming. You might find it hard to fit work around your caring responsibilities, but most people need to support themselves financially at some point in their lives.
Working while being a carer is not easy, but we’ve put together this guide to help you find the perfect balance between taking care of your loved one and supporting yourself financially. Caring for someone can be extremely stressful, especially if they live alone or have other physical or mental difficulties that make everyday life challenging for them. You might feel as though you’re giving up your youth, happiness and personal development by becoming a caregiver. But your loved one needs you right now, which means you’re doing something great for them and society as a whole.
Why is working while being a carer so hard?
Caring for someone is a huge responsibility, physically, mentally and emotionally. It can cause your loved one to spend less time being active and social, meaning they are less likely to meet friends and get out of the house to lead a fulfilling life. This can have a knock-on effect on you too. You may feel trapped and frustrated, unable to take a break or even get time off to go on holiday.
Step 1 – Know your rights as a carer and an employee
As a carer, you have rights. You might be entitled to time off for doctors’ appointments, to take annual leave and even to receive support for childcare costs. These benefits are not just for parents, but for all carers, too. It’s important that you know what you are entitled to and when you can take advantage of these rights. Getting your job done is crucial, but you also want to be a productive member of the team and avoid burning out. Make sure your manager is aware of your situation as a carer, so they know you may need support during particularly busy/stressful periods.
Step 2 – Plan ahead
If you’re taking time off to care for someone, make sure you plan ahead so you can balance your responsibilities with your work schedule. You could use annual leave or sick leave to take time off without pay, but this may not be enough for longer term absence. Try to be as flexible as possible when you’re planning your absence. You can ask your manager if you can work remotely, swap shifts or rearrange your workload. If you’re taking time off for doctor’s appointments, try to plan them in advance so you can minimise the disruption to your work schedule.
Step 3 – Take short breaks
You might feel like you’re always behind on your work and don’t have time to take a break. But being productive doesn’t mean working constantly, 7 days a week. In fact, the opposite is true. If you’re always stressed at work, you’re more likely to make mistakes, while taking short breaks can help you work more efficiently when you return to your desk. Try to take short breaks during the day to allow yourself time to relax, breathe, spend time with your loved one, and if you have a child, spend quality time with them, too. You can also set short breaks as goals during work, with short term goals like “finish this report before lunch” and “call the customer before the end of the day”.
Step 4 – Stay in touch with friends and family
You might feel like you don’t have time to see your friends or family, or you might not feel like going out and socialising, especially when you’re caring for an older family member. But staying in touch with friends and family can help you feel less isolated. You may also find you have more time to spend with your loved ones when you have a more flexible schedule. If you have a friend who lives nearby, try to arrange regular catch-ups or go to the library regularly and use their free facilities. This can help you feel less isolated and keep your social life alive.
Step 5 – Try remote work
If you’re struggling to find a flexible role in your local area, you could try remote work, where you work from home. Remote work can be a great option for carers, as you can avoid rush hour, find a quieter and less stressful office environment, and take regular breaks whenever you need to. Find some work-life balance by mixing your work schedule with breaks and time spent with your loved one.
Step 6 – Find flexible roles
If you’ve been working in the same job for a while and are finding it hard to adjust your schedule to fit around your responsibilities, you could try to find a more flexible role. You may be able to negotiate a flexible working schedule with your manager, or find a role that’s less intensive and more flexible. You could also look for a new job in a different industry, where you can work more flexibly.
Step 7 – Make your work fit around your caring responsibilities
Carers can often feel guilty about wanting to continue working, but you need to think about your future and your loved one’s future. Working is a great way to support yourself financially, as well as keeping your mind active and engaged. If you have an underactive mind, you may be more likely to make mistakes and feel frustrated, which can affect your ability to do your job well. Working can also help you stay sociable, and give you a sense of purpose. If you can, try to find a role that fits around your caring responsibilities. This may mean working fewer hours, finding a job nearby, or even doing contract or freelance work so you can take time off when you need to.
Being a carer can be a challenging and stressful role, but it’s also an extremely rewarding one. You may feel pressured to say yes when someone asks you to be a carer, but it’s a decision you won’t regret. Working while being a carer can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. By following the tips in this guide, you can find the perfect balance between taking care of your loved one and supporting yourself financially.