The changing face of the workplace


Group of people enjoying the sportWhether you’re juggling responsibilities as a member of the sandwich generation, taking on a substantial amount of work at home as part of the growing single population, or finding your niche in the workplace as one of multiple generations working together — changing family and workplace dynamics can bring many challenges.

Feeling pressed in the sandwich generation

The difficulty of living in the sandwich generation is one that’s deeply familiar to millions of people between 40 and 60, who are caring for elderly relatives while still raising children — or helping young adult children who are struggling in today’s economy. Nearly one in four American families today provides some form of caregiving,1 spending about 20 hours a week on elder care.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how much these caregivers spend, but one study estimates that those making $38,000 per year may spend nearly $200 per month on elder care, such as medicine, transportation and groceries.2

If you are facing these challenges, one of the most difficult aspects of the problem is the sense that you are dealing with these problems alone, with no resources to support you. But there are numerous things that employers can do for their sandwich generation employees, which can help you stay productive at work and save for your own retirement while juggling competing demands on your finances.

Tips for balancing home life and work:

  • Look out for referral services, webcasts and seminars that can point you in the direction of resources to manage your multiple responsibilities.
  • Ask if flex time is available — it reduces unplanned absenteeism by letting you manage your schedule with your employer.
  • Seek advice from your retirement plan provider about how you can stay on track with your own retirement goals while still helping your parents and children.
  • Look for formal or informal networks at work, comprised of coworkers who are facing similar challenges, and can offer suggestions, advice, or simply a sympathetic ear.

Living single

As people marry later and divorce more frequently, one of the most prevalent living arrangements in modern America is living alone. About one-third of all U.S. households now have just one resident, with higher numbers in cities such as Seattle (42%), San Francisco (39.7%), Denver (40.4%), and Cleveland (39.9%).3

If you live alone, you face challenges that others do not. Everything falls on your shoulders, with no one to divide up chores and share expenses.

There’s also an impact for your long-term plans. Besides taking on the burden of saving for retirement by yourself, you must also plan for retirement expenses that someone in a multi-person household may not face since other members of the household can pitch in and help — such as hiring a handyman for chores or a home health aide in the event of an illness. In other words, living alone takes a lot of resources and planning.

Tips for single workers:

  • Investigate what options your employer might offer to help with these issues. Like employees in the sandwich generation, you would likely benefit flexible work options, including telecommuting.
  • Some employers also offer Web sites with information and access to providers of various services, such as lawn care or car care. Having this information all in one place cuts down on the time you would spend seeking out service providers.
  • Think about your financial plans for retirement, including healthcare. If you are living alone, an illness that requires in-home care can decimate your finances. Avoiding this scary scenario requires careful financial planning by, for instance, purchasing long-term care insurance or contributing to a retirement healthcare savings account.

Working across generations

If you have looked around your workplace recently, you have probably noticed that your coworkers are very diverse in terms of age.

Today, there are four distinct generations in the workforce4:

  • Silent Generation: Born during the Depression and World War II, from 1928 to 1945
  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials: Born after 1980

Employers are learning that people in each group have distinct preferences and learning styles, particularly when it comes to retirement. No matter which generation you belong to, seek out the information that’s right for you. You may prefer to learn about retirement programs and other company benefits in classroom settings; in one-on-one, face-to-face meetings; online; or in personalized messages on your mobile phone. In each case, seek out the information that best meets your financial needs and helps ensure that you are taking the right steps to address your financial needs at every stage of your life.