A Nation Of Caregivers: Five Ways To Support Your Employees
We are an aging nation, and that means the caregiving population is growing exponentially; in fact, many professionals are part of the “sandwich generation,” caring for both elderly parents and younger children.
A Pew Research study estimated that almost half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a living parent who is 65 years or older while simultaneously raising a young child or financially supporting a child age 18 or older. Of those, 30 percent say their parent needs help managing some aspect of their life.
And that can take a toll on the caregivers at your workplace—and make no mistake, your workplace is likely full of caregivers. One study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that more than 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months. And that number is sure to increase, given the aging of our population: The U.S. Census Bureau says that by 2030, 20 percent of U.S. residents will be of retirement age.
Human resource executives have a unique position in helping support employees who face the responsibility and pressure of caregiving. Here are some strategies you can provide to help them:
1. Awareness — Think How It Impacts Your Workplace
As the numbers above show, caregiving is not an isolated issue. But what you might not realize is the effect it can have on your workplace. A study on “The Many Faces of Caregiving” found = that 14 percent of employee caregivers reduce their work hours or take a demotion, and another 5 percent give up working entirely, which can have a chilling effect on retention in today’s tight labor market.
Further, the AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance found that employee caregiving costs employers costs up to $33 billion annually from lost productivity; $6.6 billion in costs to replace employees who retire early or quit to focus on caregiving; and $5.1 billion in absenteeism.
2. Connection – Think How You Can Offer Resources
Helping connect caregivers to resources can help them manage some of the “mental” workload associated with caregiving. Unfortunately, that important benefit seems to be on the wane—just when we are needing it most. In fact, in a puzzling development, the Society of Human Resource Management’s 2018 Benefits Survey found that the percentage of employers offering eldercare had dropped 10 percentage points—from 13 percent in 2017 down to 10 percent, with an equal drop in those offering referral service benefits.
There are many ways you can help support these team members. If there are a number of caregivers at your business, consider hosting support groups or inviting guest speakers to brown bag lunch meetings to share insight and best practices. You also could consider starting a repository of local or online resources that might be available. A few to consider are:
3. Work Time – Consider a Flex Work Hour Structure
Does “face time” really matter? In some workplaces of course, it’s pivotal that employees be at work for the hours they are supposed to, particularly if they handle customer-facing functions. For others, a modicum of flexibility could allow a valued worker to handle both their full-time job and their caregiving duties. While they might need to attend doctor’s appointment with their loved ones during the day, they could take care of writing reports or doing research in the evening hours.
The great news is that offering flexibility can help promote satisfaction and reduce turnover—a study found that 87 percent of workers whose employers enable them to manage life in and outside of work are more loyal and satisfied.
4. Wellbeing – Encourage Healthy Habits for All
While caregivers in particular can benefit from stress-relieving activities like yoga classes or meditation, cultivating healthy habits and an overall workplace culture focused on wellness can be important for all employees. Many caregivers tend to neglect their own health, so prioritizing workplace wellness ideas, such as offering ideas for healthy cooking and incorporating exercise into the day, can benefit your entire team—but certainly caregivers specifically.
5. Transparency – Help Caregivers Understand Benefits
You want to make sure that caregivers are using all the benefits available to them, such as short-term disability leave options or the Family Medical Leave Act. Make sure they know who is covered and how they can access these benefits. You also can provide information on access to any mental health services they might need. After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep your employees able to do their job while still managing the important caregiving duties that have befallen them.