By Christine Adoni, Senior Account Executive for Ceridian LifeWorks
When it comes to employee health and wellness, providing specific support for working caregivers is critical. Doing so helps ensure that your employees are as healthy and engaged as they can be – from a physical, emotional and even a financial perspective.
If you are not convinced that supporting caregivers should be a priority, continue reading about the impact and challenges faced by working caregivers today. First, the number of working caregivers continues to escalate. Nearly 1 in 6 workers in America today have to balance their jobs with their duties taking care of an ailing relative. Ceridian recently completed a 2015 study of caregivers and published a report on its findings in “Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis In The Workplace”.
From the study’s findings, we know that 15 percent of the U.S. workforce is currently caring for an elderly loved one. Furthermore, 29 percent of those caregivers have had to change their hours to account for their new-found responsibilities. 10% have turned down a promotion and caregivers take off an average of ten days per year to manage their caregiving duties – even more for women, who take off an average of twelve days per year. In addition to the impact on the work place, caregiving is taking a toll on the physical, emotional and financial health of employees.
Our study showed that 45% of U.S. caregivers experience sleep problems, 52% experience anxiety, and many more report depression, guilt, anger, trouble eating, and even illness as a direct result of their caregiving duties.
The financial impact of caregiving adds to the stress, with the average caregiver spending 5500 per year over, even more for those who are long distance caregivers. But what about burnout? What about the trickle-down effect caregiving has on the caregiver’s relationships and long term health. Now, clearer than ever before, we are recognizing the important role that employers can play in supporting caregivers with HR policies, programs and education for caregivers.
Where should employers start? The following are five important insights about the employee caregiving problem in America today:
More discussion is necessary
It can be overwhelming to be a caregiver, as people struggle with the impossibility of being in two places at once. One thing that can help is to encourage ongoing discussion of how workers can improve their flexibility and work/life balance. Managers play a key role in recognizing and supporting caregiver stress and allowing for flexbility in work schedules whenever possible.
We can create a community
Just like any other aspect of a successful organization; support for caregivers is something we can build through strong corporate culture. Online support groups, affinity groups, educational webinars, web discussions are all programs that build a culture that supports caregivers.
Formal policies are lacking
Just talking about this issue isn’t enough. Executives and middle managers must be willing to put formal policies in place that govern how people can get their jobs done and handle their caregiving roles as well. Policies should include specifics around flexible work arrangements. The rules should be fair and easy to enforce.
Awareness remains low
One of the biggest problems is a basic lack of knowledge about what it’s like to be a caregiver and where to turn for support. Surprisingly, we found that only 19 percent of people can name a specific support organization that helps with caregiving. At a minimum, offer a strong EAP/Work Life program like LifeWorks which provides consultation, resources and referrals to community resources, and wellness programs to help individuals make their own health more of a priority while they are taking care of others.
Quick fixes are not enough
Once a policy is in place, companies can stay dedicated to this issue through program development, ongoing communication and empowering managers. Without manager buy-in, your company will struggle to develop a culture where caregivers feel supported and empowered.
The caregiving community in America is realizing the toll caring for others is having on their own health. We all have a responsibility to support the 22 million serving as working caregivers. To learn more about the impact 29 hours of caregiving each week can have on your employees, their productivity and their health read Double Duty: The Caregiving Crisis In The Workplace.
Christine holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in Gerontological Services from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She has been a strategic member of the Ceridian LifeWorks team since 1995 with a focus on strategic planning, increasing use and awareness of EAP, Work-Life and Wellness programs, training employees and managers and coordinating marketing efforts with customers. Overall, she has more than 25 years’ experience in Health Care, Social Services, Marketing, EAP, Work Life and Wellness. Follow her on Twitter: @chrisadoni