As the war on talent continues to put pressure on employers of all sizes, many are contemplating how and when a return to the workplace might unfold. In the past 2 years, employees have experienced more flexibility and integration of work and home than ever before. While this has been a luxury for many, it has also been a necessity for some, especially working family caregivers.
Today, caregiving is the second-largest reason employees are leaving the workforce. This reality affects every team in every organization- in fact, 1 in 5 of your employees is currently caring for a loved one. The challenges they face as the world returns to “normal” will affect their productivity at work, and contribute to retention issues.
But it also presents employers with an opportunity. In today’s war for talent, organizations are in search of creative benefits that will attract and retain top talent, improve productivity, and increase employee loyalty. Today, less than a third of employers provide formal caregiving benefits. Companies that build their return-to-work policies in a way that supports this population will put employers ahead in the war for talent.
Although the data suggests caregivers make up a large portion of the workforce, these employees remain mostly overlooked by workplace policies and benefits, which I learned from personal experience. The lack of support and resources I faced while I cared for my mom ultimately led to my resignation.
When my mom got sick, I became her full-time, in-home caregiver. I didn’t have the support I needed at home or at work, and I struggled to balance the demands of her care alongside the demands of my career. Eventually, I was forced to choose between the two roles and ended up leaving my job completely to focus on her care.
Many organizations are feeling the impact of similar situations in their retention efforts; in fact, 4 in 10 working caregivers are at risk of choosing between their jobs and family demands in the next year alone.
The New Normal
There are more caregivers coming out of the pandemic than ever before. From aging parents to chronic conditions, recovery from sudden accidents, new diagnoses, etc., caregiving employees are tasked with new financial, logistical, and emotional burdens that may not have existed pre-pandemic. And while many have hidden these situations while working from home, the balancing act is coming to light as many face a return to the office.
With added commutes, mandatory in-office policies, and less flexibility in working hours, many employees will be forced to reevaluate their employment. The loss of time and flexibility will affect how many manage their loved one’s care, from transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, staying on top of medications, daily care tasks like eating and bathing, etc., to their ability to focus and be productive at work.
A Shift in Priorities
In order to support these realities, employers must first acknowledge the routines and structures that once kept our work and home lives completely separate have faded. Many employees have found ways to shift their priorities, remaining productive and effective in full-time roles while focusing on and tending to the needs of their family.
To win the war for talent, employers must realize that today’s workforce will no longer choose among their personal lives, family, and work. Instead, they expect policies and benefits that allow them to integrate and prioritize these aspects of their lives accordingly.
Organizations that do not reflect this new reality will inevitably face attrition.
Employees Want More
In today’s “post-pandemic” workplace, employers should be intentional in the approach to benefits and policies especially focused on programs that mirror the company’s values.
While compensation and traditional perks remain important, companies recognizing the intersection of life and work and showing care in how employees are supported in these moments will come out on top. In fact, over 40% of workers report their company loyalty would increase if benefits were customized to reflect their individual needs.
A successful return to the workplace is possible when approached thoughtfully. By actively considering how your organization can support employees who face logistical challenges coming back to the office, you can lower attrition, boost employee loyalty, and increase productivity.
Jessica Kim is the co-founder and CEO of ianacare and a 2x family caregiver. ianacare partners with employers and institutions to deliver practical and emotional support to working family caregivers as part of their benefits package. She is also the co-host of the I Am Not Alone podcast, a show focused on building a new way to care that celebrates caregivers, creates new structures of support, & brings communities together.