How family caregiving is having a big impact on recruiting and retention
Little known fact: many of your current employees are working a second full-time job. No, I’m not talking about driving for a car-sharing service. Not freelancing. No, these employees are caring for elderly or disabled loved ones.
Consider the statistics: 42 percent of employed Americans (more than 54 million people) have provided eldercare in the last five years. Sixty-nine percent of working caregivers had to rearrange their work schedule, decrease hours or take a leave because of these responsibilities. And, the estimated cost of caregiving in terms of lost productivity hours is a whopping $33 billion each year.
The time, energy and resources employees devote to caregiving presents an unprecedented and often overlooked challenge for employers. And, given the fact that the massive Baby Boomer generation will soon be in need of caregiving, it’s bound to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Caregiving is impacting more than just productivity within most companies—it’s also starting to affect recruiting and retention. Let’s look at three different scenarios (with fictional employees) that are playing out at many companies across the country:
- Dale, a 48-year-old software engineer with a company in Palo Alto, has been providing care for his 79-year-old mother who has been battling Alzheimer’s. He’s been sneaking away to care for her during the day, not notifying his supervisor of when he’s leaving or when he’ll be back. His work is beginning to suffer, but he’s the only sibling around to care for his mother.
- Kathy, a 34-year-old IT specialist with a company in Alabama, recently discovered her 62-year-old Dad has an aggressive form of colon cancer and now requires round-the-clock care. Kathy is shouldering the bulk of the load since many other family members do not live in the area. As a result, she’s had to cut back on her hours at work, which isn’t ideal, since she has a 12- and a 14-year-old at home, and she is widely regarded as a future leader at work.
- Julie, a 41-year-old product designer, is contemplating a job offer with a retailer in Chicago. She thinks the job would be a great fit for her skills, and she would love working in the city, but she needs to consider her ailing 45-year-old brother who she cares for at least 20 hours a week in a nearby suburb. She notices the company offers no flexible or work-from-home arrangements and sees no benefits for those caring for a loved one.
These are all very real scenarios playing out at companies and with job seekers each and every day.
On the retention side, employers are losing a massive amount of productivity hours when the “sandwich generation” is asked to care for aging parents while raising their own kids. It’s not just lost productivity, either. Nearly one-third of employees said that they had voluntarily left at least one job because of an inability to balance work and care responsibilities.
On the recruiting side, benefits that aid caregivers are now front-and-center and becoming a key way to recruit top talent. The good news is that companies are paying attention. According to the report, “Supporting Working Caregivers: Case Studies of Promising Practices,” an increasing number of companies are offering flexible work arrangements, information resources and referrals, and emergency backup care. Forward-thinking brokers and benefits consultants are starting to look at new ways to tackle the caregiving challenge with employers as well.
“It’s really a two-part conversation when it comes to employee caregiving” said Denise Gott of ACSIA Partners, “It’s about providing tools that can help financially and it’s about providing resources and education that allow employees to operate more effectively as caregivers.”
“That’s the direction ACSIA is moving in to help employers. We’re combining funding solutions for long-term care planning with family caregiving resources to represent a new, holistic voluntary benefit. With that approach, and clear, employer-supported messaging, we see far greater participation than the average single digit utilization of Employee Assistance Programs and can drive the kinds of outcomes for productivity, hiring and retention that employers want”.
Over the next few years, we’ll start to see more companies moving toward a supportive approach that encompasses the full spectrum of an employee’s caregiving needs. Either through more flexible work arrangements or by way of more formal benefit offerings that get at the comprehensive nature of this ever-growing caregiving demand.