Vivek Patni, CEO and Founder of WeMa
With the winter months upon us, the majority of the UK population will be gearing up for a busy festive season. However, whilst many will be planning their hectic schedules of visiting relatives and office Christmas parties, a portion of the population will experience a much harsher winter.
For society’s most vulnerable, the cold months will bring nothing but dread. Being able to adequately heat their homes, for example, will be at the forefront of many vulnerable people’s minds; sadly as many as 3,000 people are “needlessly dying” each year from living in cold homes, according to climate-change charity E3G. For others, loneliness will be the biggest concern – according to Age UK, half a million older people expect to feel lonely over Christmas.
Thankfully, growing awareness around the reality of what winter can mean for many people has led to help becoming more accessible. Many initiatives have been launched by councils, charities and community groups, that provide visitations, food and friendship for those that need it. Independent Age, a charity, connects lonely older people with those who want to spend time with them.
These initiatives are a clearly a step in the right direction, however, there may be some instances when some vulnerable people don’t receive the help they need. When this is the case, it is usually informal carers – those who offer some form of unpaid care to a friend or family member – who look after vulnerable loved ones, according to an independent survey conducted by WeMa Care.
The unseen issue
Having surveyed over 2,000 UK adults in full-time employment, WeMa Care revealed that a fifth (18%) of UK’s workforce provide informal care to loved ones. However, many UK businesses remain unaware of the burden that some of their employees face and consequently, the needs of informal carers go unaddressed.
For many of these individuals, doing so will be a normal part of life. However, the mental and physical strain of caring for a loved one may eventually impact their working lives. Indeed, according to WeMa Care, half (50%) of those asked, said their caring responsibilities were interfering with their working life. What’s more, it is likely that the winter months will only add the stress; not only will the cold winter months be cause for concern, but family commitments over the festive season might mean they may have to spend even more time away from their loved on, who is in need of care.
For firms, another risk arises from the working carer crisis. It may seem crude and unemotional to make this point, but productivity is no doubt also being dampened by it. As per the £77.5 billion loss UK businesses suffer due to mental health sick days, the impact of emotional struggles can take a huge toll on companies.
Businesses need to tackle this issue head-on, but with 88% of organisations currently offering no support for working carers, significant progress is yet to be made.
How can UK businesses help those who help others?
There are various things firms can do to help their staff. The starting point, undoubtedly, is opening up a conversation surrounding the issue of working carers. Open and honest discussions will help to destigmatising and create a far healthier working environment. The need for this step was exposed by WeMa Care’s findings – as many as 49% of people said they used sick days or lied to their employees to help find the time to look after their loved one. It should not be the case, in any world, for employees to feel they must resort to duplicity in order to help someone in need.
The next step is considering implementing structures in the workplace for those that need it. Of course, this could take many forms, with the burgeoning CareTech sector playing host to a selection of useful tools. There are three mains areas that working carers require assistance.
First, determining the kind of care and the frequency of care that their loved one needs, then sourcing it from a reputable provider, and finally paying and managing the provider. These three actions can take up a huge amount of time, energy and resource, however CareTech tools can make the process much more streamlined, which could help to reduce the time and stress of searching the internet independently.
However, what is most crucial is that employers realise the burden on their workforce this Christmas and take proactive steps to offer them some long-overdue support. The working world has changed almost unrecognisably from just a few decades ago, with flexible working, flatter structures and a more conversational style of management becoming the norm. It is now time for UK businesses to turn their attention towards helping working carers – to the benefit of employees and their organisations’ productivity.
Vivek Patni is the CEO of Lavanya Plus, which has created the flagship CareTech solution WeMa (short for Wellness Management). WeMa consists of two complementary functions – WeMa Care, a B2B CareTech platform, enabling employers to provide better support for employees who require care services, either for themselves or on behalf of a loved one; and WeMa Life, an online marketplace that connects care service providers with consumers, allowing them to pay for and manage bookings quickly and easily. Additionally, WeMa also offers WeMa Plus, a booking platform for care providers, ensuring they are able to effectively manage their appointments. WeMa puts people before tech, matching individuals with the most suitable service providers that can deliver their personalised care needs within their budgets. On a mission to Connect Care in Communities, Lavanya Plus currently has an open funding round, giving investors the chance to be a part of this early-stage CareTech company’s journey.