Did you know that 42% of employed Americans (more than 54 million people) have provided eldercare in the last 5 years? Or that 69% of working caregivers had to rearrange their work schedule, decrease hours, or take a leave because of these responsibilities? Or that the estimated cost of caregiving in terms of lost productivity hours is a whopping $33 billion each year?
Yes, caregiving is a big issue for today’s employer—so big, in fact, that it may seem like many of your employees are working a second full-time job! After all, the time, energy, and resources employees devote to caregiving are substantial. And, considering the massive Baby Boomer generation will soon be in need of caregiving, this is an issue that’s bound to get a lot bigger soon.
“An employer’s workforce can only be so effective when so much of their time, energy, and resources have to be dedicated to caring for a loved one. Employees need help and employers need a solution because it’s affecting their businesses in ways they sometimes don’t even realize,” says ACSIA Partners’ Denise Gott, who is on the forefront of this issue and has seen the impact of caregiving firsthand with her clients.
One of those “hidden” areas caregiving is impacting is recruiting and retention.
In fact, I see caregiving impacting employers in three big ways when it comes to employee retention and recruiting:
Employee High-Performers Suddenly Start to Underperform
Some employees who have primary caregiving responsibilities may be among your most high-performing employees. But, due to the many duties of caregiving, these employees’ performance may begin to slip—drastically. It’s no surprise, really—not when you consider the heavy toll caregiving can put on someone. Some employees are even compelled to “sneak away” during the day to care for loved ones. Again, these people are essentially working two full-time jobs. And in many cases, one of those jobs is bound to take a back seat. And, it’s usually not going to be the job taking care of a loved one.
Employees Are Self-Selecting Out of the Workforce
Some employees are starting to withdraw from the workforce altogether. In many instances, they have no choice. For example, consider a scenario in which a middle-aged female employee recently discovered her 62-year-old father has an aggressive form of cancer and now requires round-the-clock care. She shoulders the bulk of the load because many other family members do not live in the area. As a result, she decides to resign from her full-time job, which isn’t ideal, as she has a 12- and 14-year-old at home and is widely regarded as a future leader at work.
That may not be a real story, but it’s just the kind of challenge employees face every day in workplaces across the country. Employers are losing a massive amount of productivity when employees in the “sandwich generation” are asked to care for aging parents and raise their own children. Recent surveys tell us that nearly one-third of employees said they had voluntarily left at least one job because of an inability to balance work and care responsibilities.
The Financial Impact of Caregiving Is Compounding the Issue
Caregiving is a tremendous tax on a person’s time and energy, but the cost to employees is often more tangible. Family caregivers spend, on average, nearly $7,000 on caregiving. Considering many Americans’ already precarious financial situation, that’s not a cost that’s easily absorbed. For an employer, the financial burden of caregiving is another threat to an employee’s well-being and another potential distraction at work.
The big question is: What can employers do that could help address this issue when it comes to recruiting and retaining their best employees?
For many employers, it comes down to one simple concept: resources. Caregiving employees are often preoccupied while at work. They’re overburdened based on their required time and responsibilities. In many cases, they don’t understand how to properly administer care to loved ones. And, they’re not informed about where to turn for help and are very concerned about the cost and quality of that help.
“It’s really a two-part conversation when it comes to employee caregiving,” says Gott. “It’s about providing tools that can help financially and it’s about providing resources that allow them to operate more effectively as caregivers.”
I believe we’ll start to see more companies moving toward a supportive approach that includes a more comprehensive view of an employee’s caregiving needs. More flexible work arrangements, more formal benefit offerings, and easy access to educational resources are all tactics I believe companies will start implementing to aid recruiting and retention in the years ahead, especially as this issue starts to impact even more people in the workforce.
Frank Morang is a regional sales director at Trustmark Voluntary Benefits. He develops and manages voluntary group and worksite distribution in the Empire region, encompassing New York and Connecticut. Morang began his career at Unum as a disability underwriter and has experience in the medical and group benefits arena, as well as sales management.