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MESSAGE TO EMPLOYERS: Family Caregivers Strengthen Your Workforce

En español | When we talk about family caregiving, we usually focus on the dedicated souls who provide so much help to ailing loved ones. But this message is directed to a different audience: the employers that caregivers work for outside the home.

The way things stand, there are 53 million caregivers providing care to people of all ages, including younger folks with special needs and challenges. In many cases, they are members of the “sandwich generation” watching over children and aging relatives. As employers, you can help these caregivers navigate a dizzying set of responsibilities and time pressures while staying productive on the job. By doing so, you will strengthen your organization, preserve your talent base, and, in the process, boost your bottom line.

It’s a common-sense strategy for the modern workforce, yet one that is widely overlooked. AARP’s research shows that the population of working caregivers is vast and growing – seven in 10 employees have some caregiving duties. They represent all races, ethnicities, adult generations, and regions of the country.

And they bring valuable skills to the workplace, including problem-solving, multi-tasking, and time management, not to mention loyalty and dedication. Isn’t that good for your organization? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, whether driven by altruism or the desire to stave off the impacts of the Great Resignation, many employers are already taking active steps to retain their valued employee caregivers.

The benefits to employers go even further:

  • Creating a supportive workplace for caregivers can become a key retention and recruitment tool. Workers will be drawn to your business, and favorable word will spread.
  • Enacting family-friendly policies can help an organization meet its goals for diversity, inclusion, and equity. Family caregivers are a diverse group, reflecting all segments of the population.
  • Employers who help workers manage all their responsibilities are rewarded with a workforce that is more engaged, productive, and loyal. This kind of support also blends seamlessly with other age-inclusive policies that capitalize on the multigenerational workforce, which is a competitive asset

The challenge of providing care while also working can hit virtually any of us. One in four working caregivers is a millennial. Over half have not reached their 50th birthday. Women are more likely than men to provide care, but a significant share of working caregivers – 40 percent – are male.

Providing care amounts to a second job, absorbing an average of 21 hours per week. Think for a moment about the traits required to take on the dual roles of caregiving and working for pay. Working caregivers embrace responsibility. They manage competing priorities, coordinate services, and advocate for their loved ones. They complete tasks with little time to spare and do so without complaining. They embody determination and inner strength. These are capacities of leadership.

Yet, working caregivers often end up in a no-win position as they scramble to do everything, and employers pay a price. A study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that U.S. business suffers billions of dollars in lost productivity yearly due to absenteeism, workday disruptions, and reduced hours by employee caregivers. Often, they do not tell supervisors about their pressures at home.

Fortunately, there are practical steps that employers can take to address these challenges – for everyone’s benefit.

Flexibility in scheduling and allowing work from home can help caregivers get their work done while fostering a supportive, family-friendly culture within the organization. Paid family leave is another policy that helps workers care for loved ones while also protecting their financial security.

Such practices can determine whether an employee chooses to stay in a job. Among millennials, a generation now entering the prime of their careers, eight in 10 say they would leave their job for a different employer whose policies are more family-friendly. That is consistent with AARP’s finding that more than four in 10 caregivers who have worked from home during the pandemic would consider quitting their job if they lose the option of remote work.

Employers also can help themselves by learning more about caregiving issues and solutions that may work for them.

A great place to start is with AARP’s educational resources on employer caregiving, featuring tip sheets and toolkits that you can access by clicking here. We offer helpful information on topics as varied as family-friendly work policies, Covid-19, and veterans’ issues, along with information you can share with employees on finances, legal issues, and long-term care.

Signing the AARP Employer Pledge is a great way to show caregivers you value workers of all generations. The program includes resources on age-inclusive practices in areas such as recruiting, upskilling, and workforce development. 2,000 (and counting) employers have already made this commitment. And they are acting on their promises.

At customer experience company TTEC, employees have access to a Health and Wellness Navigator to fully utilize their benefits during caregiving. Offerings include Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (that help save on child and adult day care costs) and professional counseling services dedicated to family matters, relationships, stress, work-life balance, and grief. They also have access to a YOU@TTEC platform to help care for caregivers, where team members can log in to find tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to relationships and finding balance.

Meanwhile, health insurance provider Humana's commitment to whole-person health builds from the inside out. They support and highlight employee caregivers like Cindy, a Humana Caregivers Network Resource Group member. Operating for more than ten years and counting, the Group fosters a supportive and inclusive environment. It serves as a voice to guide and shape the company’s understanding and efforts related to the health of caregiver associates and Humana members. Plus, Cindy and other Humana employees have access to two weeks of paid caregiver leave every year to help employees care for a loved one. 

Both employers also provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) at no cost to employees and immediate family, helping them with work and personal life challenges through an array of mental, physical, legal, financial, and social support services.

Four different Employee Resource Groups at Intel Corporation have partnered to sponsor a five-month employee program series to support working family caregivers. Hundreds of employees have joined the conversations to delve into topics including Self-Care for Caregivers, Financial Well-being for Caregivers, Preparing to Become a Working Family Caregiver, Navigating my Workplace as a Family Caregiver, and soon a Caregivers’ Benefits Bootcamp to highlight the support Intel provides its team members. The forum uniquely highlights the specific challenges that working family caregivers navigate at both work and home – and provides AARP’s free, valuable resources to those eager to use them!

AARP has put together a report with guidance on how you can create your own Employee Resource Group with specific, practical ways to support caregivers in your organization.

The concerns of working caregivers have become more urgent during the pandemic. But I want to emphasize that this is a long-term issue. As the U.S. population ages, more Americans will need care, and the pressure on employees to help ailing loved ones is only going to increase

That should give employers a real incentive to take actions that enable caregivers to manage all their responsibilities. I’ve tried to make clear that this is not about charity. It’s about smart business. Supporting your working caregivers is a strategy to help keep your enterprise strong and successful in the coming years.

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