Sun. Apr 21st, 2024



Caregiving is at the heart of every society, and in the U.S., it is a role that more and more people are filling. Many of these people choose caregiving as their occupation, but an increasing number of people are finding themselves in the role of caregiver out of necessity.

According to the annual “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report published by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are around 53 million caregivers in the country. This figure had grown from 43.5 million in 2015.

The number of caregivers is anticipated to grow in the coming years, driven by a rise in chronic illnesses and reduced disposable income. Additionally, 61% of caregivers are employed in other jobs, and 23% of them report that caregiving has negatively impacted their own health, according to the joint National Alliance for Caregiving-AARP report.

It’s no wonder paid and unpaid caregivers face a real risk of burnout. That’s why it is crucial for employers, brokers, and human resources professionals to support their employees who double as caregivers.

How can employers support working caregivers?

The reason why many companies struggle to provide sufficient support for working caregivers is because caregivers are reluctant to openly discuss their challenges. Caregiving is complex, and often, workplaces don’t have the proper mechanisms or frameworks for communicating about these unique, very personal situations.

Simply addressing employees who are also caregivers—people working two full-time jobs—is a great start. But while awareness is one thing, companies will also need practical solutions in place. The following are some ways to support employee caregivers.

1. Provide an employee benefit.

Nicole May, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Sompo Horizon, explains that the impact and complexities of adult caregiving extend far beyond the family unit and affect employers, communities, and even healthcare systems. Caregiver stress can negatively affect physical and mental health, which then affects employees’ jobs. A Harvard Business School report reveals that 80% of employees with caregiving responsibilities say those duties impact their productivity at work.

“Caregivers often develop conditions that can include anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and decreased cognitive reasoning,” May says. “Providing working caregivers the necessary support to care for their loved ones allows them to also prioritize their own well-being, create a supportive workplace culture, and increase productivity.”

Consider integrating caregiver benefits into the workplace. These policies and benefits should aim to alleviate and provide support for the adverse impacts of caregiving responsibilities. This could look like flexible work policies, gym memberships, or mindfulness activities, or they could be more specific platforms or technologies that assist employees in caregiving.

2. Create an environment where sharing is encouraged.

The idea of sharing struggles at work is easier said than done. Employers shouldn’t expect caregiver employees to take the lead in conversations about their personal lives. They’ve got enough on their plates.

Instead, employers need to proactively work to establish a culture of trust and belonging. Caregiver employees often avoid sharing their struggles because they worry what they share will negatively impact their jobs. Leaders and managers must create safe, nonjudgmental spaces and one-on-one check-ins where sharing is encouraged.

This culture can benefit the company. “When employees feel a sense of belonging at work, employers see improvements in attracting and retaining staff; reducing absenteeism; increasing engagement, creativity, and loyalty; and producing higher quality work outcomes,” says Jenna Kellerman, director of workforce strategy and development at LeadingAge.

3. Offer moral support.

Caregivers need to feel a sense of community—the notion that they are not alone. Feeling a sense of belonging and having opportunities to share and vent can combat burnout in the workplace.

Try creating an employee resource group around caregiving. This should be a community group where time is set aside for fellow caregivers to relate to one another and share hardships and victories. Companies offering this kind of network can create a more cohesive and engaged workplace. Verizon is one example of a company that has set up an employee resource group called Parents and Caregivers Together. The group is “committed to empowering parents and caregivers to succeed at work and in life through education and communal support.”

Employers have an opportunity to help employees reduce the risk of burnout and help alleviate the challenges associated with caregiving. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data, more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day. Let’s proactively learn how to support caregivers to create a better tomorrow for everyone.

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