How to Support Working Caregivers: The Guide to Creating a Culture of Care in the Workplace

Posted by Michelle Chaffee on Aug 22, 2019 11:10:58 AM

At some point in most of our lives, we’ll spend time caring for a loved one. As new parents, for a sick spouse, our own aging parents. Family caregivers are a core pillar of the healthcare ecosystem. Many execute their caregiving duties while still maintaining full-time employment putting extra stress on themselves and creating a challenge for their employers. Nearly 80% of caregivers say that caregiving impacts their productivity. For their employers, the cost is nearly $45 Billion dollars a year.

Providing caregiving benefits as an employer makes economic sense and creating a culture of caring makes good social sense.

Providing your working caregivers support for the physical and emotional challenges they face will pay dividends. This guide will introduce you to the hidden, working caregivers in your organization. It will also provide a roadmap to understanding their challenges and the impact those challenges have on your organization.  It will also provide you with the building blocks to begin developing a culture of caring by offering caregiving benefits.

How to Support Working Caregivers

Who are Working Caregivers

When you hear the word caregiver, what comes to mind? Go ahead picture it.

Who are you visualizing? Probably something like this:

How to support working caregivers

A middle age woman caring for her ailing parent. Were we right?

The reality is your working caregivers can be anyone. 73% of working employees report being engaged in caregiving responsibilities. They are caring for a sick spouse, a child with a chronic illness, or even a neighbor who is a veteran suffering from PTSD.  

These caregivers work part time and full-time and are most likely, unpaid for their caregiving duties.

Unpaid caregivers make up 43.5 million people in the United States. Of these, nearly 10 million are millennials in their early 20s to late 30s making up the largest and fastest growing demographic in the workplace.  The tasks of caregiving often take an even greater toll on millennials who are just starting career and family.

Caregiving on the Rise

There are many factors driving the escalated necessity for family and friends to step into the role of caregiver. Baby boomers are aging at record rates, in fact, the percentage of people aged 65 or older is expected to double in the next several years.

Increasing chronic illness rates at all ages and skyrocketing healthcare prices, combined with longer life expectancy and higher insurance costs, are leaving chronically ill people with barely enough means to manage their illness. This leaves little if anything, left over to afford home care or an assisted living facility.

A report from the National Alliance of Caregiving (NAC) found that 43% of caregivers feel like they must be the primary caregiver because their patient either cannot afford professional help or they don’t have other caregiving options available to them.

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, as of 2013, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded $470 billion. Typically, the cost of unpaid caregiving outweighs the cost of formal care such as nursing homes or professional home healthcare. The difference in the cost is relayed to the caregiver or caregiving team both financially and through the value of the time they spend caring for their loved one.

Caregivers & The Workplace

What does all this mean to your workplace? Even though your caregiving employee may clock in and out for work with your company, they are never off the clock when it comes to caregiving.

Even if they have physical relief in the form of a professional care provider or other family member while they are away, they may still be called upon to make decisions and need to fill in if their hired caregiver or family member becomes absent. Working caregivers are always on call.

Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) caregivers report making work accommodations due to caregiving responsibilities including arriving late and leaving early, taking time off, cutting back on work hours, changing jobs, or needing to quit working entirely.

It's extremely important that caregivers remain engaged with the care needs of the the person for which they are caring and the team providing that care. If an employer doesn't offer flexibility and understanding when it comes to caregivers responsibilities, it can lead to very difficult conflicts for the employee.

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Working Caregiver Challenges

Unpaid caregiving is a massively challenging role for which there is little way to fully prepare or train. Among the myriad of challenges facing working caregivers, a few stand out that impact their daily lives significantly:

Depression & Anxiety

A conservative estimate reports that 20% of family caregivers suffer from depression, twice the rate of the general population. On the high end, clients of California’s Caregiver Resource Centers stated that nearly 60% show clinical signs of depression.

Depression and anxiety coupled with caregiving responsibilities on top of duties at work can make a heavy load even more difficult.

Time Management

As mentioned, caregivers are often needed for things like running errands to pick up medical supplies and prescriptions and chauffeuring to and from appointments. While these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, they put working caregivers in a difficult position when PTO is limited and expectations to be in the office are strict. Employees are left to juggle their responsibilities in order to get everything accomplished, often at their own expense.

Focus & Communication

Even when a hired caregiving team and support system are present, caregivers inherit the burden of communication. Outcomes of every appointment and changes to medical status must be communicated to family, friends, and the rest of the caregiving team if one exists. The mind of a caregiver is often reeling when trying to remember who they spoke to (or didn’t), what details may have been missed, and the general burden of managing it all. Focus at work can be compromised and interrupted frequently by the need of coworkers or supervisors. In a nutshell, it’s difficult to stay focused on their job responsibilities no matter how much of a priority it is to them.

Employer Benefits of Supporting Caregivers

As we mentioned previously, providing caregiving benefits as an employer makes good social sense, but it also makes economic sense. Here are several benefits employers who support their caregivers in the workplace reap.

Improve Productivity

A study by Harvard Business School found that only 24% of employers believed employee caregiving influenced their performance at work, while 80% of the employees admitted caregiving had an effect on their productivity at work, interfering with their ability to do their best work. Unsupported caregivers may find themselves needing to use work time for caregiving tasks or may simply be too tired and stressed to give 100%.

Providing caregivers with the support they need will lead employers to having more productive employees.

Lower Healthcare Costs

In general, healthy employees cost less. Less insurance claims, lower premiums, a true win-win for both the employer and the employee. However, a hidden cost of unsupported caregivers is higher health care costs. It isn’t uncommon for caregivers to experience extreme exhaustion or burnout. This can lead to a weakened immune system, poor management of chronic conditions and other health-related issues.

Reduce Turnover

Not supporting your caregiving employees may result in losing good employees. Caregivers tend to be very hardworking and dedicated, well-organized, and obviously, caring individuals.

According to a recent Forbes article, 13% of caregivers have resigned from their jobs to provide care to their loved one, and 9% have changed jobs or careers entirely. This means, not only are you losing good employees but you may also be dealing with inflated rates of turnover which can be extremely damaging to your bottom line.

Attract & Retain Top Talent

With unemployment levels at an all-time low, the competition to find and keep good employees is higher than ever. A Harvard report entitled “The Caring Company” claims that companies striving to become “corporate care leaders” will be the ones to attract and keep the best workers in the future.

Learn how Connected Caregiving supports your working caregivers. Connect with us.

Increase Job Satisfaction

Proactively supporting caregivers can help increase their job satisfaction as well as give their productivity a boost. If a caregiver doesn’t need to spend time feeling shame, guilt, or stress at work about their care responsibilities, they will be better able to prioritize and focus on their job in the moment.

If you aren’t sure how many caregivers you currently employ, what kinds of issues they might be facing, or how you could possibly help, let us help you by conducting an assessment of your organization.  Only 12% of employers actually offer tools or resources specifically for caregivers.


How to Create a Culture of Caring

As an employer, building a culture of care in the workplace goes far beyond supporting caregivers within your ranks. It starts, like most company-wide initiatives, at the top with your executive leadership caring for all employees. It is important that care is embedded into the company mission and core values, as well as actively exhibited within your company benefits programs.

Having a culture of care will impact everything your company does. It will transcend into interactions with customers and clients as your employees express true care for their needs and concerns. Be sure to communicate that care is an important part of your purpose as a company and empower employees to utilize care by being human with your customers and really listening and taking action in their best interests.

How to support working caregivers

At the Human Resource level, it will be vital to reiterate the importance of acknowledging caregiving challenges when hiring and seeking out qualities in potential hires, especially those in supervisory or senior management positions. This will help ensure people coming in are reinforcing this core cultural value.

Another great way to reinforce a culture of caring is to provide ways for employees to get to know each other and build relationships outside of work. One suggestion that provides a means for employees to connect while also spreading care into your community can be participating in volunteer opportunities together such as serving at a soup kitchen or tutoring children in an after school program.

4 Simple Ways to Support Working Caregivers

Providing support to working caregivers doesn’t need to be complex or costly for your company. There are many simple ways to extend a little help to your caregiving employees.

1. Start an Office Caregiver Support Group

Some employees may be scared to disclose their caregiver status for fear of being seen as unproductive or aloof or even out of fear of retribution. Starting a support group can break that stigma. Start a dialogue and make it very clear your company is looking to proactively support your caregivers.

Furthermore, allowing your caregivers to connect with colleagues in the same situation can be a valuable tool when it comes to learning the ropes and learning from someone who's been through the same things already.

A support system can come in many forms from a formal meeting cadence to a virtual caregiver support group, such as that offered with Connected Caregiving.

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2. Provide Excellent Health and Wellness Benefits

Caregivers are often so focused on the health and wellness of the person they are caring for that they forget about their own health. Providing top-notch benefits is a great way to ensure caregivers have the tools and support to maintain their own health. Offer affordable healthcare, healthy food in the office, and fitness options. Educate and encourage your employees to take full advantage of their benefits and practice self-care. No person, employee or otherwise, can pour from an empty pot.

3. Proactively Offer Resources to Help with Caregiving

Chances are, caregivers are using some of their time at work to do research, schedule appointments and worry about the well being of their loved one. You can take a proactive part in helping them learn and solve problems that may arise.

Find ways to help financially, offer workplace solutions like Connected Caregiving or creating a fund caregivers can draw from for emergencies or look into providing software or app solutions designed specifically for caregivers and their care teams.

4. Create Opportunities for Caregivers to Be With Their Loved Ones

Sometimes the most important thing for a caregiver is having the ability to physically be with the person they are caring for. If their loved one is recovering from surgery, fighting an illness, or nearing the end of life, it’s important the caregiver feels they are doing all they can to improve the experience for their loved one.

Offer Flex Time or Remote Work Options

Having flexibility in scheduling will make all the difference for the caregivers you employ. Knowing they can move their hours around or bring their work with them when necessary will alleviate stress and anxiety over how to prioritize work and care.

Create a Caregiving Leave Program

As an example, AARP has implemented a caregiving leave program that allows caregivers to request two regularly scheduled workweeks off (above and beyond their regular PTO and leave policy) to provide care to a family member or loved one.


Connected Caregiving as a Caregiving Benefit

Being able to focus on work, at work is important for your employees and for you.  Connected Caregiving powered by alska makes this possible for working caregivers. It also provides employers with valuable data and analytics regarding employee needs and best practice outcomes to prevent asbenteeism, presenteeism and reducing healthcare costs.

Connected Caregiving is a powerful and proven solution to help working caregivers better manage all the details required to provide optimal care to their loved ones.  By offering one secure easy to use platform to more effectively manage communication, appointments, securely store vital legal, medical and financial information and tools to better manage disease.  Working caregivers can also attend virtual caregiver support groups and access one on one patient advocacy sessions to help them with care planning at every stage of the caregiving journey or even just better manage a health crisis.

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Topics: Working Caregivers, Employee Support