National Work Life Week is fast approaching and at Bright Horizons, we’ve been thinking about today’s families and the current trends, challenges and aspirations in balancing work and family life.

Our 2016 Modern Families Index told us that already 1 in 4 working parents are feeling the pressure and caring for two generations – raising children while also caring for elderly friends and relatives. Commonly known as the “sandwich generation”, they are juggling the complex role of employee, parent, partner and carer.

But with an ageing population, reduced pensions and an increasing retirement age, the “sandwich generation” have evolved into a new special: the “club sandwich generation”.

Food related metaphors aside, this group are experienced and talented employees, often in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, who are sandwiched between ageing parents, adult children and grandchildren, or with young children, ageing parents and elderly grandparents too.

With not just three but four generations to support, the club sandwichers are being squeezed from all sides more than ever before. Multiple pressures within the family unit mean they’re frequently the ones who are relied upon to support in unexpected breakdowns in care but also trying to meet work commitments, support friendships and maintain their own health and wellbeing.

The increase of stress is also having a significant impact – with employees using annual leave and sick leave to support with care and cope with burnout. 

It may sound overwhelming at time but here are some proven techniques to ease the pressure for those of us “sandwiched” and “club sandwiched”:

 Discuss the challenges you face

-          Talk to your partner, children and/or parents about the responsibilities you are facing and how their support is key to success.

-          Encourage your children and elderly loved ones to communicate with one another, which will allow each group to share their needs, views and how everyone can work together within the family unit.

-          Talk to your family when regular plans may need to be adjusted to fit changing situations.

Share responsibilities with your family

-          Arrange a family meeting to discuss and set expectations about the different tasks that need to be accomplished each week or day – such as picking up and dropping off at nursery or school, collecting prescriptions, appointments and running errands.

-          Create a rota for these duties and allocate the family member responsible.

-          Involve grandparents and/or great grandparents in the daily activities so they know they are an important part of your world.

Check out the resources that can help you

-          There are many resources that can help you and you might find a great day centre, or a local hospital or doctor’s transport service.

-          Look for resources within your circle of family and friends who are not responsible for caring but might be able to help, such as supporting with food shopping and dropping off/picking up at nursery or school.

Make your health your priority

-          Find 30 minutes of personal time each day to read, exercise, listen to music, meditate or speak to friends. Building in small bits of ‘me time’ will help you feel better and be able to focus more on others when required.

Ask for help

-          Don’t be afraid to ask for help – remember your friends and family are here to support you.

Reach out to those you feel comfortable around to talk about how you may be feeling. There’s also often great carers’ networks too within your local community.