As caregivers, we understand that self-care is important, but finding “me time” can seem downright impossible when juggling a full-time job, parenting a young child and caring for an aging parent. It’s a problem that’s increasingly common for individuals in the “sandwich generation,” and it’s causing employee burnout at an alarming rate. Many companies are now recognizing the financial and mental pressure of caregiving responsibilities and are offering benefits to help retain a happier, healthier workforce.
The caregiving crisis has too often been ignored and underreported. A Homethrive 2021 Employee Caregiver Survey reported 79% of caregivers do not have access to caregiver support benefits at their workplaces. However, a 2020 AARP report found nearly one in five U.S. workers is also a caregiver for an ill, elderly or special-needs adult. This discrepancy isn’t totally a result of corporate greed. Many employees fail to share their caregiving responsibilities with their employers in fear of being viewed as unable to perform work responsibilities, losing their job or being passed over for promotions. That lack of awareness may be the reason so few employers offer caregiver benefits.
The “Great Resignation” has changed the way many companies are treating their employees. Companies are getting creative with benefits, recognizing the need for an improved work-life balance, and finally have a greater understanding of the caregiving crisis. As a result, forward-looking companies have developed an array of benefits to create a less-taxed workforce.
Solving the caregiver crisis
The caregiver crisis is one without a one-size-fits-all answer, so many companies have offered customized solutions to help alleviate the many issues caregiving can cause. For instance, Family First recently announced a collaboration with MetLife Legal Plans to provide comprehensive support for employees navigating the emotional, social, clinical and financial challenges of caring for a loved one.
“Employees have experienced daily and ongoing struggles of managing doctor’s appointments, Medicare adherence, grocery shopping, finances and more for loved ones—while also working and caring for themselves without asking for help,” said Loi Stoddard-Graham, vice president at MetLife Legal Plans.
MetLife Legal Plans enrollees and their families have ongoing access to care teams composed of professionally accredited nurses, Harvard-trained physicians, social workers and mental health professionals. These care teams work with the entire family ecosystem to resolve the most complex challenges, including mental health, family dynamics, logistics, legal issues, financial challenges, difficult decision-making and other needs.
“Caregiving impacts every aspect of the caregiver’s life in profound ways. It creates complicated and multi-faceted challenges that cannot be solved simply with backup care,” said Evan Falchuk, CEO and chairman of Family First. “We are honored to join forces with MetLife Legal Plans to empower family caregivers to take back control of their lives by providing the personalized, expert caregiving solutions they need to address their unique challenges.”
Wellthy, a digital care concierge platform that partners with employers to find affordable, high-quality care for employees and their families, formed a similar partnership with New York Life Group Benefit Solutions to offer clients more timely and coordinated access to much-needed caregiving services and support. According to Wellthy’s data, 90% of employees reported feeling more engaged and less stressed at work because of the services, and 33% said Wellthy’s support prevented them from taking a leave of absence or resigning due to caregiving reasons.
Other companies may not offer a similar sophisticated platform but instead opt for generous paid leave policies to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent, adult child or sibling with a serious health condition.
Companies also are starting to recognize the importance of a flexible work schedule for caregivers.
“The thing we hear most from caregivers is they need flexible schedules,” Christina Irving, client services director of Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco, told SHRM. “They need to take time off in the middle of the day and then work longer later in the day. Working remotely during the pandemic has allowed caregivers more flexibility, but working remotely isn’t possible in every field. Some caregivers face a lot more stress when they have to go into the office.”
Global giant Deloitte recognized that need and, in addition to offering a paid leave policy for caregivers, also has enhanced its approach to hybrid work to offer flexibility of where they do work.
Caregivers of both children and adults understand that backup care is a common issue that can interfere with the typical workday. Recognizing that, companies such as Fannie Mae and Microsoft offer backup care hours where an employee can call an agency and arrange for paid in-home or facility-based care.
Discussing caregiving with your employer
Today might be an optimal time to discuss the challenges of caregiving with your employer. Many companies are desperate to retain valued employees, and caring for an aging loved one (along with possibly a young child as well) is increasingly common. Approaching the issue of caregiving proactively prevents it seeming as an excuse if work output or attendance suffers—and many managers may already suspect something at home is providing a distraction. Read more tips about discussing your caregiver status with your boss.
Normalizing the challenges of caregiving and advocating for support and benefits will result in happier caregivers and more inclusive policies nationwide. Just like caregiving, it’s not easy—but it’s important.