How Employers Can Support Caregivers

Sept-caregiver-imageDoes your company have a comprehensive “Family Caregiver Leave” policy in place? If not, it might be time to start thinking about one. 44 million family caregivers currently reside in the U.S. providing care for ill and disabled loved ones – tasks may include everything from transportation to doctor’s appointments to providing more skilled nursing care like administering medicine and dressing wounds.

As the second largest generation, Baby Boomers, ages into the post-retirement bracket, the responsibility of their care in old age and in ill health will fall to more and more of their children, the people who make up the largest percentage of the workforce. Don’t miss these four key ways to support and empower family caregivers in your company:

Paid Leave

Microsoft was in the news recently when they announced on LinkedIn a transition from a 12 weeks unpaid family caregiver leave policy to a four weeks paid and eight weeks unpaid policy.  This not only helped bolster their company’s image, but follows industry trends that reflect a new understanding of what is coming down the pipeline when it comes to employees needing to take on caregiving roles. Previously, companies like Deloitte and Facebook had announced updated caregiver leave policies for more paid time off to care for a sick relative.

Paid Family Caregiver Leave policies are intelligent reactions to what employees are asking for – better work life balance and the ability to work remotely when needed at home. Acquiring top talent and the best employees for your team may come down to the benefits you offer, and this isn’t just maternity and paternity leave anymore, but family caregiver leave as well.

Provide Better Telecommunication

If an employee needs to work remotely from their home while providing care for a loved one, it is critical to set communication pathways in place that keep the whole team united and in touch. There are a host of free and low-cost tech tools that are answering this call for virtual connection:

Instant messaging and conversation tools like Skype and Slack help team members stay in constant chats, share files, and more.

Conference call services like Join.me, Zoom, and UberConference help employees hold virtual meetings with call-in lines and the ability to share screens.

Live video chatting platforms like Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and Viber let team members call in and hold meetings where they can see themselves and share screens.

Emotional Intelligence

What makes your employee a loyal family caregiver could possibly be what makes them a top contributor to your company – dedication, work ethic, empathy, and detail orientation. Recognizing these qualities and molding your own response to their leave (be it for a death in the family or a traumatic emergency like a parent having a stroke or heart attack) can make a huge impact on the experience they have with your company.

Going the extra mile for employees by sending flowers to their loved one in the hospital, donating to a related charity with the loss of a family member, and checking in regularly to ask how they are doing and if they need anything, speaks volumes. If you’re not sure what comes with caregiving duties for an aging parent, ask! For example, an elderly parent returning from the hospital may require more in-home safety equipment, and having a new shower chair or step stool delivered for them on behalf of the company shows that you get it.

Understanding your employee’s new schedule and the balancing act required when working and caregiving as well will help you avoid misconceptions and missed opportunities to foster a team-first environment.

Don’t Forget Other Benefits

Perks that may seem like simple additions to a job description to help your company find top tier talent can also benefit employees who are family caregivers. Benefits like contributing to student loan repayment can help off-set burdens that millennial caregivers often face in losing money, time, and career freedom to help care for an ill loved one. Reimbursements for fitness programs and gym memberships also prioritize employee health and can encourage family caregivers who so often put their needs last to take care of themselves and exercise on the company’s dime.

When it comes to speculating about the future of company growth and employee retention, keeping family caregiver needs in mind is a must.