The role of a caregiver can be difficult to balance with a full-time job – and new care responsibilities are growing quickly, affecting millennials as their parents age, ultimately impacting their work performance.
According to a recent survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), nearly one in five workers in the U.S. are caregivers for ill, elderly, or special-needs adults. Additionally, workplace equity platform Syndio found that diversity efforts are expanding in the workplace and the fastest-growing category of employee identity groups are workers with caregiving responsibilities, with 12% of companies identifying them as such.
In 2023, offering family care benefits to your employees can not only be a huge advantage but also a huge help. In this Q&A, Jill McNamara, Senior Director of Care.com, shares highly valued services proven to support caregivers, from senior care planning to adult backup care, and how they not only benefit employees, but employers too.
Here’s what she had to say.
What causes employees to seek out senior care assistance?
JM: Oftentimes, becoming a family caregiver happens rapidly when people notice the early warning signs of mental, physical, and emotional decline in their aging loved ones. With how harsh the winter is on seniors between spikes in sickness, seasonal depression as a result of less sunlight, or increased risk of physical injury due to icy terrain, it’s no surprise that caregiving responsibilities start to pile up and become difficult to manage as we enter spring. So, for those with full-time jobs, this newfound care responsibility can be extremely strenuous to navigate on top of work, and many may turn to their employer for assistance in finding the best next step to caring for their senior.
How do senior caregiving responsibilities impact employees at work?
JM: Senior care needs are complicated, expensive, and unpredictable, leaving employees distracted and unproductive at work. Unlike childcare where expecting parents have time to plan their care arrangement, those with sudden senior care responsibilities are tasked with finding the right care option for their senior when they are least expecting it, and that can be overwhelming and time-consuming to navigate. Without support, employees are forced to make significant workplace adjustments as a result, such as scaling back hours or leaving their jobs altogether. The reality is, when employees are forced to choose between work and family, everyone loses.
How can employers encourage their employees to feel comfortable in sharing the challenges they’re facing with their care responsibilities?
JM: It can be very daunting for employees to come forward to talk about their caregiving responsibilities, especially when it comes to taking care of seniors. Senior care-related issues, more often than childcare, are filled with unexpected emotions that intensify as they quickly realize their loved one is aging. Employees may also feel hesitant to admit to having caregiving commitments at the risk of giving the impression that they can’t focus at work. But the truth is, if they keep silent about their needs, there will be further strain not only on the employee but the business, too.
So, for employers, it’s important to create a comfortable and safe environment that encourages transparency and reassures that hearing about your employee’s situation will be welcomed. Be ready to help by explaining what resources are already in place. If there aren’t any resources available, remain open to hearing their suggestions of what will work best for their situation, and most importantly, act on it. Prioritizing compassion and flexibility are key to helping your employees carry the weight of caregiving.
What resources and benefits can employers put in place to help their employees with caregiving responsibilities feel supported?
JM: There are a few steps that employers can take to create a work environment that is supportive of their workforce’s care responsibilities. First, employers should take a hard look at what benefits–if any–they have in place to alleviate the stress of caring for an aging family member. Care benefits can include access to a caregiving marketplace so employees can find vetted caregivers, subsidized backup care to help employees book a caregiver at an affordable rate when ongoing care falls through and dedicated 1:1 support from qualified care specialists. This level of employer-sponsored support is significant headway into making work and life more manageable for employees. Beyond benefits, employers can invest in a workplace culture that is more inclusive of those with care needs. For example, creating employee resource groups or establishing a flexible workplace that enables employees to work when, how, and where it works best for them can go a long way in fostering a supportive work environment for caregivers.
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