Being a caregiver is a huge psychological and physical challenge for many employees, but there are several important strategies that companies can use to lessen the impact and keep people productive and focused while at work. With the right support elements in place, caregivers can thrive, and companies can boost their retention rates too.
This is a workplace issue that has been growing for some time and is only projected to continue growing. About 9.5 million Americans became caregivers between 2015 and 2020, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). But since the pandemic began, millions of workers have been pushed into caregiving roles for the first time. According to a 2022 report from the Rosalynn Carter Institute, one in five employees is now at risk of leaving the labor force due to caregiving responsibilities.
For companies that want to hang on to their caregiving workers, it’s time to start adopting some best practices to give them the flexibility and resources they may need.
An estimated 18 to 22% of the US labor force is comprised of family caregivers. (Source: Rosalynn Carter Institute, Feb. 2022).
There are quite a number of strategies that companies can deploy to strengthen their workforce against the hurdles of caregiving. In fact, many of these flexibility-boosting tips could bring about solid returns for businesses. The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commission says in its guidelines on caregiving that, “Numerous studies have found that flexible workplace policies enhance employee productivity, reduce absenteeism, reduce costs, and appear to positively affect profits. They also aid recruitment and retention efforts.”
Some important tips include:
1 - Increasing Awareness: There are a few different points at which caregiving awareness will become valuable for companies. Starting off, companies will need to survey their workforce to learn the extent that caregiving is affecting their employee population. When constructing a survey, be sure to remember that most caregivers don’t actually think of themselves as providing care. They consider themselves simply as a daughter, son, or spouse. Thus, questioning should focus on the kinds of activities a person may be spending their time providing.
Secondly, managerial staff need to be trained and informed about the ways in which the treatment of caregivers could constitute workplace discrimination. Although caregivers aren’t considered a specifically protected class of workers, there are many ways that caregiver discrimination could violate other federal employment statutes. An example of this would be the assumption that a caregiver would be less reliable or capable than other workers, which would be a violation.
2 - Consider Expanded Benefits: Lots of unique caregiver-focused employee benefits have been gaining popularity lately. Examples of these would include things like care accounts that set aside pre-tax dollars to cover caregiving expenses for dependents, employer-sponsored long-term care insurance, employee assistance plans, and more. Be sure to inform employees about how to use these offerings and how they could help.
Self-care benefits are important offerings to consider. Caregiving responsibilities have been well documented as being detrimental to a caregiver’s health, commonly leading to higher rates of depression, stress, and other negative outcomes. Encourage caregiving employees to maximize their use of mental health, time off, and wellness benefits to reduce burnout.
3 - Promote Flexibility: Creating and promoting flexibility options for caregivers can be a great thing for businesses across multiple fronts. Many jobseekers are specifically seeking flexible options, like control over their schedules, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, family-friendly overtime, personal or sick leave, and lots of others. Companies can go much further by ensuring all of their employees have access to the same work opportunities, particularly on high-profile assignments, and by providing equal access to all professional development and networking opportunities. By promoting these types of options, companies can showcase its inclusive workplace culture and bias-free policies.
Some larger national companies have gone a big step further by providing their caregiving employees with resources like backup care assistance and consultation options with experts by phone or video. The logic behind these offerings is they help the employee stay focused on work instead of needing additional time off to provide care in the event that in-home providers are otherwise unavailable.
With any types of offerings that a company elects, the EEO recommends training and informing managers maintain full compliance with companywide and national policies. Those who regularly interact with employees should be familiar with all of the available work-life policies and should support employees that take advantage of those programs.
Here to Stay
It’s clear the trend of caregiving is here to stay and may likely only increase in the future. So, the time for forming a comprehensive strategy is now. Any employee at any level can become tasked with caregiving responsibilities at any time, but with a little bit of planning it doesn’t have to negatively impact companies. Things like greater flexibility options and additional support can even be profitable in the long run, making them excellent decisions for business.
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