Juggling work with caregiving: finding the right balance

Wednesday, 27 march 2024

While the majority of working caregivers manage to strike a balance between their caregiving responsibilities and their working lives, 21% of them find themselves in a critical situation.

According to the findings of the BPCE L’Observatoire study conducted by BPCE economists, 55% of caregivers are employed or self-employed. Of these, almost 80% successfully reconcile their professional activities with their caregiving responsibilities, either because these responsibilities have little impact on their jobs (42%) or because they have managed to strike a balance between the two. The situation is tense, however, for 21% of working caregivers, including 10% who, if they had the necessary means to do so, would stop working in order to look after their loved one.

Achieving a satisfactory balance between working time and time devoted to caregiving depends on three factors: the sustainability of the number of hours worked in addition to the time spent providing care; the sustainability of the intensity of professional work combined with the mental workload shouldered by the caregiver, who sometimes feels permanently on-call (always able to be contacted); and the compatibility of their professional and caregiving agendas. Whenever possible, caregivers look after their loved ones in their spare time, usually at weekends and in the evenings, but it is sometimes necessary to take time off from work to keep appointments or respond to emergencies.

In order to satisfy these obligations, it is often necessary to adjust the hours and organization of a caregiver’s professional work, and to take a flexible approach to absences: 43% of working caregivers say they have changed the way they organize their work, and 60% have been required to take time off work in the previous 12 months. 

The impact on the hours and organization of work depends on the severity of the caregiving needs but also on the closeness of family ties with the person receiving care. In the case of a child or spouse, almost 70% of working caregivers will change the way they organize their professional lives, with a significant proportion resorting to part-time work: 26% will reduce their working hours to care for their child, and 37% will do so in order to take care of their spouse. When the relationship with the person being cared for is more distant (friend, neighbor, parent-in-law, etc.), very few caregivers change the organization of their professional lives. In this case, the degree of involvement in caregiving is adapted to the constraints of work, rather than the other way round.

Even if most caregivers manage to strike a balance between their different obligations, the total amount of time spent working and caring for a loved one remains a difficult challenge. The need to juggle obligations and agendas is reflected in the difficulties most frequently mentioned by working caregivers, namely lack of time (51%), physical tiredness (51%) and mental load (48%).