29th March 2018Category: Working Carers
Opening up about something as personal as caring can be difficult. You might feel a mixture of emotions about discussing that part of your life in the workplace. You may have been thinking of telling someone at work for a while. You might be nervous about their reaction or if the conversation will be awkward. There might be the worry that once people know, you might lose your job or miss out on opportunities.
The worry builds over time and it can become stressful just thinking about it. However there are many working carers that feel once they 'reveal' their story, they might find they are not the only one or a new sense of support becomes present.
There are many reasons why it is worth telling a colleague that you are caring for someone:
When you feel ready to talk to a colleague, you need to be aware and ready for different reactions. They might not know what it means to be a carer so you might need to explain what it involves for you day to day. Some may know a bit about it and you might find they are currently experiencing being a carer as well. Be prepared for questions.
Everyone’s personal experience of telling colleagues about their caring role is unique. The only way I can describe telling someone I was caring for a loved one, was that feeling of pulling off a plaster. You know you can/need to do it but you hesitate, let fear and panic take hold with all the ‘what ifs’ and it can feel worse than it needs to be. The first person I told was my friend at work. We were close so I trusted her. I knew she would be a good person to turn to. I think I made it really awkward as I was behaving differently to normal but I just felt relief when I told her. A small part of the heavy weight on my shoulders had gone. I knew I had someone who would have my back in the workplace. If I suddenly got emotional (I would cry very easily) or just quieter than usual, she would understand why.
I told my line manager about my situation next, and she actually opened up about caring for a parent. But I didn’t really tell a lot of people ‘just the people that needed to know’. Back then I considered myself a private person at that workplace and I didn’t see myself as a carer just someone who would need to use flexi time to take the person I cared for to hospital. In my eyes, I was just dealing with a lot and struggling with it. I was being stubborn too. I thought I could manage. Looking back the colleagues I worked with would have been supportive. I now know some of them have been working carers and their advice would have been helpful. Reflecting on that time, if I had opened up to colleagues, it would have reduced the stress and pressure of work, caring and the skill of juggling it all. I think I would have really appreciated it if someone had said to me; I am going through this too, what can I do to help? Or, come with me and let’s just take 5 minutes away from the desk.
You may prefer not to tell your colleagues about your situation, or to tell only a few people. Telling your colleagues or manager may be a good move in the long run especially if you need to apply for flexible work in the future for example. However, it may be that you want to keep a part of your life as ‘normal’ as possible. Whatever your reason, it is important your wish to be private is respected. Don’t feel under pressure to explain things if you are not comfortable doing this. You know what works best for you and your situation.