By Estelle Morrison, Ceridian LifeWorks Vice President of Clinical and Wellness Services
Everyone in human capital management is well aware these days of the value of corporate health and wellness. You need a healthy workforce in order to be productive on a daily basis, and you need high productivity to maintain a profitable business. Simply put, if you have unhealthy employees, your productivity and thus profit will suffer. But that’s just one layer of a very complicated issue. Beyond that, there’s another aspect to consider – many employees today are looking after not just their own wellness, but their loved ones’ health situations as well. Caregiving is a widespread phenomenon, as millions of Americans endeavor every day to juggle their jobs with taking care of a relative.
Caregiving can have myriad effects on employee productivity on a daily basis. Sadly, most are negative – most notably, caregiving responsibilities have a way of insertingboth visible and hidden interruptions into an otherwise productive day. It’s common for employees to take phone calls about their loved ones’ health, take hours off work to transport patients to appointments and endure a constant state of worry that makes it difficult to focus on job tasks.
All of these little things add up. According to Ceridian’s research, the cumulative effect is statistically significant – 39 percent of employee caregivers report difficulty with getting their work done on time. Similarly, 34 percent report difficulty focusing at work, and 27 percent often have problems with work absences.
For managers, this presents a difficult challenge. How do you keep your staff productive even if you’ve got individuals on your staff who are dealing with difficult caregiving responsibilities? The solution definitely isn’t to ignore the issue, nor is it to fight back (you don’t want to ask people not to care for their loved ones).
The real answer is to work on transforming the company culture into one that supports employee caregivers. Build a nurturing environment that supports your caregiving employees making their lives easier instead of more stressful. Here are five ways you can start to shift your culture into one that supports working caregivers:
Pay attention to the problem
Often, the issue is that managers are simply inattentive. In Ceridian’s caregiving study, 68 percent of caregivers said their direct manager wasn’t aware of their situation. Basic awareness is the first step.
Show support, not derision
The next ingredient is a positive attitude. Only 39 percent of caregivers polled said their managers were “very supportive,” while 20 percent have actually made negative comments. Positive feedback should be a guarantee with any good manager.
Offer helpful work programs
Most companies have numerous in-house programs that can make a difference for caregivers. Think of all the possibilities – increased sick days or an employee assistance program that offers stress management coaching, counseling and more. Employees should know how their employers can help.
Increase awareness of office resources
Sadly, participation in company initiatives like the above is fairly low. Only 26 percent of caregivers are using EAPs, and only 16 percent even know that their offices have caregiving policies in place. Better programs and increased awareness of those programs are both necessary.
Promote outside support organizations
Finally, there are probably additional support resources for caregivers outside the office that can help. The American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America could all potentially make a difference. Make sure your employees are aware of all the possibilities.
Your organization can benefit from supporting working caregivers. It is no secret that mentally healthy employees are the most productive, working caregivers included. Support caregivers and they are less likely to experience fatigue or mental health issues due to burnout and more likely to be loyal and engaged for years to come. Many employees who don’t receive the support or flexibility they require end up quitting (in caregivers 50+ this is as high as 37%). What if they didn’t have to quit and then the employer didn’t have to lose valuable talent and experience lost productivity in the hours it takes to re-train? We are entering a new year, to quote my colleague Jayson Saba, 2016 is the year of the employee, companies will “… do the right thing for their employee – taking employee life demands into consideration and ensuring a process that works for both the employee and company”. Taking care of your caregiving employees is more than the right thing to do – it is business saavy and it will positively impact your bottom line.
I’ll leave you with one last thought. Have you considered what your competition is doing to support their working caregivers?
If you are a working caregiver yourself have a look at our Infographic: 4 strategies for balancing work with caregiving responsibilities.
Estelle Morrison, Ceridian LifeWorks Vice President of Clinical and Wellness Services, has more than 25 years of experience managing EAP services. Her focus is on delivering effective, innovative health and wellness solutions with an emphasis on enhanced productivity, prevention of illness and optimal health for Ceridian’s EAP business.