Employees bring their whole selves to work each day which allows for the highly efficient, effective, and creative workforce we enjoy. As Human Resource professionals we appreciate the diversity of our workforce and continue to adjust within our employee benefit programs to meet the changing needs of our employees and their families. Top employers know that thinking more strategically about caregiving will help them fight for top talent and provide the corporate culture employees are seeking especially in this more complicated caregiving landscape brought on by COVID-19.
The concept of caregiving is not new but as our workforce evolves it is becoming more critical to consider caregiving as an area of opportunity within employee benefits. This shift, further amplified by the pandemic, highlights a cavern between top tier employers who appreciate the multitude of responsibilities employees must navigate versus those that hire people despite them.
The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving recently released Caregivers in Crisis: Caregiving in the Time of COVID-19. This thoughtful piece attaches hard data to the burden we have all experienced over the last 6 weeks. The data indicates that 83% of caregivers have increased stress since the start of the pandemic, and 42% have indicated that the number of other caregivers available to help them has declined. Caregivers themselves – in addition to those requiring care – are experiencing an increased burden from isolation, stress, financial concerns, and general instability.
AARP estimates that each year approximately 40 million American adults provide support to others with basic functions (i.e. activities of daily living). Many of those, including 75% of millennial caregivers are working.
For millennials in particular the stress of caregiving can be more challenging since they are typically providing care for more hours in a week, making less money and having less support from other family members (i.e. reduced family size). Also of note, millennials are the most diverse caregiving community to date (i.e. racially, ethnically and more likely to identify as LGBTQ+) which can be important to consider related to diversity and inclusion.
Employers that are new to the concept can consider caregiving solutions as a continuum or suite of solutions; not a one size fits all approach or something that has to be implemented all at one time. A core offering typically includes:
- Educational resources
- Advocacy support
- Self-service tools
Enhancements allow for 24/7 live support and paid time off when necessary to address caregiving emergencies.
It is important to think broadly about caregiving solutions. In addition to introducing separate solutions, it is equally important to shift our mindset and expand common employer benefits that could be leveraged for extended family members (i.e. second opinions, medical guidance with challenging health diagnoses, etc.). The term caregiving must also extend beyond elder care of medical conditions but include children struggling with online school or developmental disabilities or Medicare eligibility and financial planning when moving into retirement. The goal of caregiving solutions is to support your employees as both caregivers and those needing care.
We have all heard the announcement on the airplane about putting on your own mask before helping others; employer sponsored caregiving is building on that logic and allowing your employees to more efficiently:
- Find educational information related to their caregiving needs
- Direct employees toward potential solutions
- Provide tools to support decision making
- Pair employees with short term and long-term caregiving solutions
Caregiving support as an employee benefit is still in its infancy. Unfortunately, many employers do not realize the need, the impact on employee performance and the demand that exists at the employee level. A 2019 Harvard Business School Study, The Caring Company, indicates that while only 24% of employers surveyed believed employee caregiving influenced their employees’ performance at work, 80% of employees surveyed admitted that caregiving had an effect on their productivity. In addition, 32% of employees surveyed indicated that they left a job because of their caregiving responsibilities.
Employers who take a proactive position on caregiving support – along with the tools needed for successful roll out and measurement – will see a direct impact on attraction, retention, productivity, and corporate morale.
If your organization is interested in exploring caregiving support as an employee benefit, or is ready to identify partners for a best practice roll out, please reach out to our team.