Choosing Caregivers Leave Provides Proper Family Support and Allows for Peace of Mind When Returning to Work

Choosing Caregivers Leave Provides Proper Family Support and Allows for Peace of Mind When Returning to Work

Shoichi Miyake
Sony Home Entertainment & Sound Products Inc. HES Software Center V&S Software Technology

I joined Sony to work on developing state-of-the-art workstations

I have been fond of portable radios, Betamax VTRs and other Sony products since I was a primary school student. The product that had the greatest impact on me was the greatest impact on me was Sony's NEWS workstation. The NEWS ran on the UNIX operating system developed by the University of California, Berkeley, which has long been a pioneer in computer research. I was studying computer science at university in Japan at the time, and the NEWS fascinated me because it crammed all the functions of the large computers of the late 1980s, known as "minicomputers," into a desktop-sized workstation. This led me to develop a strong desire to work on developing the NEWS at Sony after I graduated.

As I had hoped, I was assigned to the workstation business division in charge of designing the NEWS-OS after joining the company. Later, I was engaged in developing peripherals in the VAIO personal computer R&D division. I worked on developing prototypes for home network devices and audio playback devices using wireless LAN technology. I was put in charge of designing software for the Walkman® in the audio development division from around 2005. Right now, I am in charge of overall development of platform software for use in home and personal audio products. A few years ago, I faced the task of taking care of my mother, and decided to take two months' leave to balance caregiving with work.

The NEWS workstation for developers runs on UNIX

Taking caregivers' leave to create a balance between work and caregiving

Some three years ago, my mother, who was living alone in the family home, was hospitalized after falling and breaking her shoulder and pelvis. My boss and team members provided great support during my mother's three months' rehabilitation by encouraging me to leave work early to visit the hospital to help with her walking exercises. But while my mother recovered enough to walk on her own, her relatively mild dementia worsened the minute she entered the hospital. I moved into the family home when it became clear that a family member needed to live with her after she left the hospital. Since it was dangerous to leave my mother alone while I was at the company, I had to make arrangements to use a public nursing care service so that I could continue to work. After agonizing over this for a while and talking things over with a care manager, I established a plan to use daytime services to start with. Anticipating that I would have to use a private nursing facility if this turned out to be inadequate, I took two months' leave to look for a service to which I could safely entrust my mother.

Leave supported by HR, my workplace superiors and team members

I started by researching the leave schemes I could use, and contacted HR. After I informed the people in charge that I would need around two months to find a public nursing service, they suggested I could use the company's paid vacation and accumulated leave schemes. At that time, they provided very sympathetic advice on taking caregivers leave, how often I could use it, and even limitations on the number of days. In the end, I decided to use the maximum 20 days allowed by the accumulated leave scheme, plus one month's caregivers leave.

Because of his own direct experience of taking care of his parents, my workplace boss responded positively at once when I told him I was considering taking caregivers leave. My sub-leaders also took on the tasks of my job to ensure that work overall would not fall behind. After I returned to work, I discovered they had apparently had a hard time for a while because taking on the extra work each day was quite stressful. The peace of mind provided by the solid support from my team members was an enormous help during my caregivers leave.

Gemba team members who supported my work when I was on caregivers leave

Leave-taking schemes facilitates work today

I had heard about how tough nursing care is, but I found it far more hectic than I had imagined once I began living together with my mother in the family home. During my leave, I started with day care services from Monday through Friday, but just taking her to and from the service center and preparing meals was very hard to manage, to the extent that I suffered from nervous gastritis. I realized that it would be impossible in the future to work while using day services, so I started looking for a care home to which I could entrust my mother. I took her to inspect a care house (a welfare facility that accommodates elderly people who are no longer able to live on their own) near our home. It seemed to please her because it was bright and open, and the food was good, so I decided to have her live there.

After my leave ended, my life and work returned to the situation before my mother was hospitalized. Today, I visit my mother about once a week, and am convinced that being able to take leave and establish a solid routine has enabled me to work as before while ensuring she is in good hands.

HR's schemes are your ally when it comes to continuing to work free from anxiety

I hear some people have no choice but to quit their jobs in order to provide nursing care, but I was able to avoid that by using the company's HR schemes. I never had to face the choice of leaving employment because the nursing care scheme enabled me to take leave with the support of my boss and team members. Some people might hesitate to use schemes like these for balancing work and caregiving, but I recommend they make proactive use of them. The application process involves answering difficult questions about how much assistance is needed in daily life and private matters, but I think people should go ahead without embarrassment because the process highlights just how much assistance you need.

Since I really love working in the gemba(site), I have always wanted to be in the development team and have gone on to work in management. However, my approach to work has changed since I was obliged to leave the gemba for a while this time. I had some concerns because this was my first experience of such things, so I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped me out with advice. The care and kindness with which they answered my questions was truly reassuring. If people are thinking of using a scheme for support in balancing work and caregiving, I advise them to consult HR before making the application so that they can check various options. In my case, I believe I was quickly able to win the understanding of the people around me about leave-taking because my boss and colleagues include people with caregiving experience. If you know people with such experience, I suggest you consult them because they will very likely take your side in various ways.