Many carers have responsibilities at work as well as at home. If you’re a working carer, you’ll know that getting the balance right is crucial if you’re to meet the needs of your loved one, your employer and yourself. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the pressure you’re under. Establishing the right working hours for your circumstances is very important, as is making the most of your own time. Here are our three top tips:

Gather information and know your rights

Changing situations at work are always easier when everyone involved knows what they’re entitled to. This will guide you and your employer through the process – it might be a new situation for both of you!

The main points for employees to remember are that you can make one application for flexible working per year and your employer has three months to respond to it. You might be entitled to other employee benefits too which will be outlined in your contract. Check your contract so you don’t miss out on a benefit you’re entitled to.

Crossroads has put together information for employers here – feel free to share the link with your boss!

Talk to your employer

Talk to your employer about your role as a carer – it is very likely that they will want to help and do what they can to support you. Remember, if you’re a good employee, you’ll be worth a lot to the organisation you work for and they won’t want to lose you.

You might not need to alter your hours at all – sometimes just letting your employer know that you have responsibilities outside work can make a difference.

It’s a good idea to speak to your employer as soon as possible. The more notice they have that things might change at work, the easier it will be for everyone involved. If, say, you want to reduce your hours, your employer will need time to recruit additional people to ensure work demands are met. Your employer is more likely to grant your request if they have time to put alternatives in place.

Negotiate the hours that work for you

Before you ask for new hours, think about the natural rhythm of home life and how work could fit in around it. For example, it might not be possible for you to work until 5pm if you then have to travel home, make dinner and get the person you care for to bed. But if you asked to start early and leave early, you’d have more time to make your evening work. As a consequence, you’d be a more productive employee and a more attentive carer.

Your employer is also more likely to grant your request for flexible working if you can be flexible too. Decide what you can flex on and what you can’t so you can both find a solution that works. It might be that the hours you’re proposing allow you to work the unpopular shifts – this could make your request more attractive to your employer.

Look after yourself

Life’s busy for working carers, but remember that looking after yourself is essential if you’re going to be good at your job and there for your loved ones. Self-care isn’t selfish. The last thing you want is for standards to slip because you’re overloaded – you can’t afford to end up in a disciplinary meeting just because the person you care for had a bad week.

Work and care can both expand to fill the time available, so try and block off time just for you. Use this time to recharge your batteries and remind yourself that you’re you, as well as being a worker and a carer. Go out if you can – you can’t get distracted and start working or washing up if you’re outdoors; and sunlight, nature and exercise are all good for mental health.

If you’re not good at putting yourself first, start small. Perhaps you could buy the biscuits only you like and enjoy one with a cup of tea and a good book. Many simple pleasures are very restorative, like taking a bath or listening to music.

Of course, there are lots of ideas for nurturing yourself even though you’re juggling caring for others with work. You can read more tips for self-care here.

Let Crossroads take the pressure off

Crossroads is committed to supporting unpaid carers. If you’re a carer, we could help you get some time back for yourself so you can carry on doing the vital paid and unpaid work you do every day. To find out more, get in touch today on 01372 869 970.

“You might not need to alter your hours at all – sometimes just letting your employer know that you have responsibilities outside work can make a difference.”