The impact of caregiving responsibilities on employees is a growing concern. As the population ages, more people will need assistance with daily activities. Family, and friends, often inexperienced and unprepared for the full impact of caregiving, may volunteer to provide home care and companionship for their loved ones.
Serving as a caregiver is rewarding, but also very difficult. For those who are employed and provide caregiving support to family and friends, the challenges can be even greater. There is often little to no balance between work, family obligations, and caregiving responsibilities. Time for self-care seems impossible. This constant state of “doing” eventually takes a toll on employees’ mental and physical health. Studies have shown that employees who take on the role of caregiver for a family member or friend often experience higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Unfortunately, caregiving cannot always be neatly anticipated and planned. Emergencies happen. Appointments may need to occur at inconvenient times. Unplanned interruptions are an ongoing reality when you are a Caregiver. Not to mention the constant worrying! As an employee caregiver, you worry about your loved one while you are at work, and you worry about your work performance and job security when you’re at home. It’s an exhausting cycle! This can lead to decreased job performance, absenteeism, presenteeism, and ultimately increased health care costs. One study estimated that employee caregivers cost their employers and extra $13 billion in healthcare expenses each year. Astronomical!
Caregiving responsibilities can also have a financial impact on employees. The costs associated with providing care for a loved one can be significant, and often employees are forced to make difficult decisions. According to a 2021 AARP study, on average family caregivers spend 26% of their income on caregiving activities. Those decisions can range from discontinuing any form of saving to cutting expenses. Some may choose to skip medical care for fear of not being able to afford doctor’s bills and the cost of prescription medications. Others, unfortunately, fall behind on essential living expenses such as rent and mortgages. For those who were already struggling financially, the additional strain from caregiving can lead to a situation from which a financial rebound may take years to materialize.
Finally, it is always important to remember that almost 33% (one third) of all employee caregivers voluntarily resign their positions when it conflicts with their caregiving responsibilities.
So, what can employers do to better support their employees?
The most important thing employers can do is to foster a corporate culture that embraces employees with caregiving responsibilities. Providing avenues for communication, such as employee surveys with specific questions about caregiving responsibilities is one way to demonstrate your company’s compassionate, caring culture.
Other offerings include flexible scheduling and creative workload balancing strategies. Employee assistance programs and generous medical and mental health benefits help to minimize some of the physical and emotional toll of caregiving.
And, last but not least, let’s address the “elephant in the room”: financial impact. Offering access to an in-home care service is a highly effective method of addressing the burden of caregiving. To retain your employees and ensure that they can focus on work – while at work – providing access to a sponsored, in-home care service is the most effective step employers can take.
Caregiving responsibilities have a significant impact on employees: emotionally, physically, and financially. Employers should recognize this and provide support to their employee caregivers. Support for caregivers is a win-win for the organization and employees.