Mallika Kripalani, ECC Executive Coach based in Singapore, has written this article with working carers in Asia in mind.  

Caring in Asia 

In many Asian societies, the expectation is that daughters or daughters-in-law will assume the role of caregivers for elderly family members. A study from Duke-NUS on caregiving in Singapore found that 73% of caregivers are children or children-in-law, and almost three in four caregivers are women.1 This can lead to a perpetuation of gender-based caregiving roles, limiting opportunities for men to participate actively in eldercare. As societies shift towards more progressive perspectives on gender, the dynamics of caring for the elderly are undergoing transformation, but still have a long way to go. 

Employee Caregivers 

Working caregivers often find themselves juggling the demands of a professional career alongside the responsibilities of caring for a loved one. The delicate balance between work and caregiving can be overwhelming, making resilience a crucial trait to develop. Given that eldercare in Asia is intricately woven into cultural norms and evolving gender roles, the importance of handling the multiple responsibilities of caregiving, often falls to women.  

You’re Not Alone 

Being an unpaid carer for a loved one can be daunting and isolating. It’s not surprising that 50% of carers reported feeling lonely in a survey by Carers UK, when caring responsibilities mean less time for leisure, socialising, fitness activities and self-care. Employee-caregivers are 70+% more likely than employees who are not caregivers to say that they are worriedabout their physical and mental well-being. 

What may be surprising however, is just how many carers there are. Across the Asia-Pacific, the number of employee-caregivers will grow to a total of 1.2 billion by 2035, an increase of 100 million on today. Employee caregivers already make up 60% of the workforce and more than 80% of them rely on care assistance to be able to attend to their paying job.  

Working caregivers need to be proactive and employ strategies to enhance their resilience and maintain a healthier work-life balance. Some ideas are listed below but are by no means exhaustive. Our resource page offers many other articles which may help and balancing career with caregiving responsibilities is a great resource to tap into. Strategies to consider: 

1. Prioritise Self-care 

We often think of ourselves last when we are trying to juggle both work and caregiving. However, it is at this time that we actually need to prioritise and manage ourselves. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” – fill yourself up in order to help you care for others.  

  • Acknowledge the importance of self-care and carve out time for it regularly. 
  • Establish boundaries to protect personal time, whether it’s for relaxation, hobbies, or simply downtime. 
  • Remember that taking care of yourself enables you to better care for others. 

2. Build a Support Network: 

When we can lean on others, it helps us be more effective at both caring and managing our work life. 

  • Cultivate a strong support system, including family, friends, and colleagues. 
  • Communicate openly about your caregiving responsibilities, allowing others to understand and offer assistance when needed. 
  • Seek out local or online caregiver support groups for shared experiences and advice. In Singapore, there are many groups that offer specific support. Health Hub has collated a list of some of them. 

3. Effective Time Management: 

Having tried to juggle this aspect many times over the years, I cannot stress the importance of doing this on a daily, or even weekly basis.  

  • Prioritise tasks and focus on what truly needs attention. 
  • Utilise time management tools and techniques to organise both work and caregiving responsibilities. The Agency for Integrated Care offers some tools and strategies on how to manage your care routine. 
  • Delegate tasks when possible, recognising that it’s okay to ask for help.

4. Flexible Work Arrangements: 

Courageous conversations with your line manager, HR business partner or your team, can have excellent benefits in helping you cope. Quite often people are willing to help if you ask, but if they don’t know you need the help, then it’s difficult for them to offer it. 

  • Explore flexible work options, such as telecommuting or flexible hours, with your employer. 
  • Advocate for policies that support work-life balance, including leave options or alternative work arrangements. 

5. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: 

What works for you to help you reduce stress? Find a routine that works for you and incorporate this into your day. You can try to: 

  • Incorporate mindfulness practices into your routine, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer are all apps that can help with this. Box Breathing has also been shown to reduce stress.  
  • Identify stress triggers and develop coping mechanisms to navigate challenging situations. 
  • Consider activities that bring joy and relaxation, helping to alleviate stress. 

 6. Open Communication at Work: 

  • Maintain open communication with your employer and colleagues about your caregiving responsibilities. 
  • Discuss realistic expectations regarding workload and deadlines, ensuring a mutual understanding. 
  • Explore workplace resources that may support caregivers, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). 

7. Financial Planning: 

  • Assess the financial implications of caregiving and plan accordingly. 
  • Explore available resources, benefits, or financial assistance programs for caregivers. The Agency for Integrated Care offers information on the types of support available. 

8. Continuous Learning and Adaptability: 

  • Embrace a growth mindset, recognising that adaptability is key in balancing work and caregiving roles. 
  • Stay informed about resources and services available for caregivers. 
  • Continuously seek opportunities for personal and professional development. 

As someone who has had to balance between caregiving and working, I know that many of the strategies I have shared here have been of enormous benefit.  

In the increasingly complex landscape of working caregiving, resilience is a vital asset. By prioritising self-care, building a robust support network, managing time effectively, and embracing adaptability, working caregivers can navigate the challenges more effectively.  

Remember, resilience is a journey, and these strategies can contribute to a healthier, more balanced life for both the caregiver and those they support.