Benefits and Compensation, Learning & Development

Uncovering the Connection: Caregiving, Burnout, and the Workplace

Burnout is the state of mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress and can manifest both physically and mentally, with symptoms like insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and a general lack of motivation. Burnout is increasingly prevalent in workplaces, leading to heightened absenteeism, a trend of “quiet quitting,” and employee turnover. Its repercussions can have significant economic impacts.   

Workplace burnout is a significant issue, with Aflac research indicating that more than half of all American workers are experiencing at least moderate amounts of burnout. Gallup’s findings echo this sentiment, with about 40% of professionals admitting that their occupation has recently had a somewhat or extremely negative impact on their mental well-being. Furthermore, Gallup’s economic analysis suggests that burnout is leading to annual costs of approximately $47.6 billion for American companies.  

As prevalent as burnout is in the workplace, it is further compounded by the additional demands of caregiving. Working caregivers can attest to the exhaustion that comes from juggling full-time employment with caring for a loved one. Moreover, for most, caregiving does not offer financial compensation. AARP estimates that the value of the unpaid assistance caregivers provide to spouses, parents, and others is worth around $600 billion annually.  

Unfortunately, most caregivers receive no financial compensation for their additional role, which can exacerbate physical and mental health issues, along with other personal struggles. This added burden often spills over into their primary jobs, increasing their vulnerability to workplace burnout. Recognizing and supporting the dual role of these employees is not just a compassionate approach but also a crucial step in addressing the consequences of caregiver burnout in the workplace.  

Taking Proactive Approaches to Mitigate Caregiver Burnout  

The link between caregiving responsibilities and corporate burnout was an aspect our company had not initially considered. This connection became apparent when several associates resigned, not in pursuit of other job opportunities, but due to the unmanageable combination of their caregiving roles and professional duties.  

Upon recognizing this pattern, we embarked on a mission to develop employer support specifically tailored for caregivers. Our response to caregiver burnout, while proactive, was implemented in hindsight. Ideally, these measures should have been implemented earlier to prevent the loss of valuable team members. However, it is always a constructive time to initiate change and support caregiving employees within an organization.  

It’s crucial to acknowledge that caregiving responsibilities are likely to become increasingly common among your employees, driven by the rapid aging of populations worldwide and the resulting surge in retirement. This phenomenon of an aging population is a global reality, affecting not only countries like Japan, known for its notably low birth rate, but also the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 73 million Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. In the U.S., this demographic shift is further complicated by the challenges of healthcare systems that are often costly and inaccessible. These barriers frequently lead families to rely on their members for caregiving, placing additional burdens on those employed.  

Your organization is in a prime position to alleviate the stress of caregiving among your employees. Proactive measures can contribute not only to the well-being of your team members but also positively impact your company’s economic health. Below, we outline strategies to foster a healthier work environment for your employees and mitigate the financial implications of burnout.  

1. Train Managers to Recognize Caregiver Burnout  

Identifying caregiver burnout in your organization is crucial for effective intervention, yet its symptoms can be varied and subtle. Key indicators in employees may include frequent sick days, difficulties in performing routine tasks, noticeable changes in personality, and withdrawal.  

It’s essential to train your managers to recognize these signs and initiate respectful and sympathetic conversations about them. Equipping leaders with comprehensive information on the importance of helping working caregivers alleviate burnout is vital. This knowledge empowers them to effectively support their team members experiencing burnout and guide them toward seeking appropriate help.  

2. Stay Open to Flexible Working Arrangements  

Flexibility in work schedules is often highly valued by employees, especially those juggling caregiving responsibilities. While remote work may not be feasible for every role, a willingness to accommodate the unique needs of caregivers is crucial.  

Consider allowing employees to tailor their work hours to accommodate the medical appointments of their loved ones. In cases of temporary caregiving duties, offering the option of part-time work can provide much-needed relief until the situation stabilizes. Additionally, while implementing paid caregiver leave might not be immediately possible, exploring this as a future investment is worthwhile. Such measures not only support the individual needs of employees but also demonstrate the organization’s commitment to their overall well-being and work-life balance.  

3. Offer Employer Support  

Fostering an open dialogue about caregiving for an aging loved one within your organization can demystify the topic and encourage employees to share their caregiving experiences. Creating a culture where discussing caregiving responsibilities is normalized and supported is crucial. 

Consider implementing resources such as complimentary employee coaching, wellness programs, and counseling services to further assist. If there are many caregivers on your team, exploring the possibility of establishing a support group specifically for them can be beneficial. Peer support can be invaluable, often alleviating the sense of isolation that contributes to stress.  

Burnout doesn’t have to escalate into a major issue within your company. By recognizing the importance of health and well-being within your organization and adopting practical strategies to demonstrate employer support, you can reduce burnout rates and retain your most talented employees. This proactive approach underscores your organization’s commitment to the holistic well-being of its workforce and promotes greater economic health. 

Tetsuya “Tet” Morito has been with Sompo Holdings for 30 years and has held numerous leadership roles during his tenure. He served as the general manager of global strategy and, through his initiatives, helped grow Sompo into a Top 10 Global P&C company. Tet is a visionary who helped identify the caregiving resource gap in the U.S. and developed the execution plan for Sompo Horizon. Tet holds an MBA in strategy, an M.S. in finance from the University of Maryland, and an M.S. in information and knowledge strategy from Columbia University. 

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