Help family caregivers for loyal, productive, healthy teams.
Look around your organization. With around 1 in 6 working Americans currently serving as an unpaid, primary caregiver to a family member, there is a good chance that some of these people work with you. If you think this none of your business, think again. Unpaid caregivers often come to work tired, stressed out, and emotionally exhausted, despite their best efforts to juggle work and personal life successfully. You need to be prepared to understand and support employees who are also caregivers to ensure a productive, engaged, innovative workforce.
While caregivers may just see themselves as busy people with lots of responsibilities, this role takes its toll. In a recent survey, 47% of unpaid caregivers say they have feelings of depression; and 58% find it difficult to sleep on a regular basis. More than half of unpaid caregivers say they don’t have time to exercise, and a similar number say they have experienced unplanned or unwanted weight gain or loss. More than half (55%) say they feel that their physical health has suffered, partly because they put their loved one’s health above their own. One-fifth (21%) of family caregivers say it worries them to ask for help to address their own health.
Work suffers for unpaid caregivers, according to survey results. More than 1 in 5 say they have had to reduce the number of hours they work to care for a family member. A similar number feel that their careers have been negatively affected by their caregiver responsibilities. One-third of family caregivers say that this role has strained their financial situation.
Your employees who are unpaid caregivers could really use your support and understanding, according to survey results. While 85% said they feel supported by their family in their caregiver role, almost 3 in 10 say they feel that the healthcare system doesn’t recognize or support this role. One-quarter (26%) say they have received no information or practical support in the last 12 months. You can support these workers by providing benefits, policies, and resources to alleviate some of their burdens. Start with a few steps:
1. Identify the family caregivers in your organization and learn about their needs. For instance, are they spending a lot of time transporting their loved ones to doctor’s appointments? Are there community or volunteer organizations that could provide some transportation assistance?
2. Consider what benefits you can offer, including unlimited paid time off, remote work, shared sick time, and employee resource group (a peer-to-peer network to share resources and best practices).
3. Know the law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employers to 12 weeks of leave for qualified family and medical reasons, such as caregiving responsibilities. Make sure that employees know their rights.
4. If workers are hesitant to take leave because it is unpaid, consider providing flexible work hours and/or the ability to share/switch shifts more easily. Another option is a company policy that enables employers to use sick time to care for family members.
5. Watch for signs that employees who are family caregivers are struggling. These include uncharacteristic absenteeism, forgetfulness or lack of focus, missing deadlines or meetings, fatigue, changes in mood, and/or workplace adjustments (such as turning down promotions, cutting back on hours, etc.).
This is an issue that won’t go away any time soon. Nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s are part of the so-called “Sandwich Generation,” those people caring for children and aging parents simultaneously. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of these are juggling full-time work with caregiving; and a growing number of these unpaid caregivers are men. By providing support and benefits for these individuals now, you increase the likelihood that you will have an engaged, productive, healthy workforce with less turnover over time.