Helping employees who are juggling work and caregiving can improve their overall experience
Increasingly, workers in a number of countries are providing care for a family member or relative.
In Australia, for instance, older individuals living at home generally receive more assistance from informal caregivers (73 percent) than from formal providers (60 percent), according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.
In the U.S., nearly three out of four employees reported having some type of caregiving responsibility in a 2019 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey. In the United Kingdom, one in eight adults, around 6.5 million people, are currently informal caregivers — a number that’s expected to increase to 9 million by 2037, according to a Carers UK policy briefing.
With the significant hours that can be involved — on average, 24 a week, according to National Alliance for Caregiving data — it’s no surprise taking care of family members at home can take a toll on employees. Over time, trying to manage being a caregiver and working full-time can potentially result in a number of work-life balance and other issues.
A 2019 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey found nearly nine in 10 working caregivers in the U.S. have made adjustments to their employment status due to their care duties. Thirty-six percent have missed days of work for caregiving; 20 percent reduced their hours; 15 percent of working caregivers switched to an alternative schedule — and 11 percent quit their job.
With institutional knowledge loss and additional hiring and other costs potentially resulting from losing valued employees, that’s a scenario no employer wants to see happen.
Businesses, though, may be able to help employed caregivers achieve a greater work-life balance — and hopefully encourage them to stay — through some of the following efforts:
Instituting a caregiving-friendly company policy
In countries where employment protection and/or financial support for caregivers isn’t governmentally specified, some employers are proactively focusing on the issue. In the U.S., for example, nearly a fifth of the employers that participated in a 2018 Mercer survey said they offer paid leave for employees to care for a family member. Eighty-two percent let workers use sick days to care for an ill family member.
Supporting family caregivers in providing care
To prompt employees to feel comfortable actually using their PTO options for care, companies need to establish a welcoming, compassionate culture that assures workers they won’t be penalized for taking time off when they need to.
A survey from the Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work found only 55 percent of employees who were eligible for paid-time off used it; and some workers are hesitant to admit they’re caregivers because they worry it will harm their career prospects. Employees who said caregiving had a negative effect on their career mentioned consequences such as a lack of challenging assignments, leading to demotivation, and reduced salary increases or bonuses.
Measuring caregiving actions’ effect
More than half (52 percent) of the employers that participated in the HBS survey said they don't track data that relates to employee caregiving.
Obtaining a more accurate big-picture view of what time and other considerations are involved can help employers better understand the impact lost productivity due to caregiving can have on both employees’ lives and operations — and determine which benefits, scheduling, program aspects and other items can help enhance the employee experience for workers who are also providing care.
For more on determining which benefits and amenities will resonate with employees, view our blog posts on how much time off to offer, designing a viable PTO policy, 3 financial benefits employees may feel are better than a raise, how to compete with companies that offer big work perks and ways you can use benefits to drive employee satisfaction — without having to vastly increase spending.