In a recent AARP study, unpaid caregivers working at least 30 hours a week at their “regular” job are more likely to report having workday interruptions as a result of caregiving. And the caregivers who are working less than 30 hours are more likely to report they cut back their work responsibilities due to their care responsibilities. That’s not to mention the 22 percent who feel their own health has declined as a result of caregiving. It’s a big job, with big consequences for employee and employer alike.
While employers are becoming increasingly aware of the research and impact of caregiving on employees, there has been a gap in formal employer benchmarking studies to help organizations make those critical, next-step decisions that will better support their workforce. But a joint, 2017 NEBGH-AARP Caregiving and the Workplace: Employer Benchmarking Survey is helping to change that.
Here, we summarize 9 key takeaways from the report:
- There are contradictions between perceptions of being a caregiving friendly workplace, and actual company culture and benefits priorities.
Eighty-four percent of survey participants reported their workplace culture as “caregiving-friendly” and see it as an increasingly important issue to their company over the next five years. Yet, only 62 percent state that being identified as caregiving-friendly is important to their company.
And while caregiving is listed as a top 10 priority for employee health and benefit issues for 57 percent of respondents, less than half (49 percent) say that being a caregiving-friendly workplace is a high priority to their role as a benefits professional. Later, when asked if employees are comfortable sharing their caregiver status with managers and colleagues, only 36 percent say they that’s the case.
- Organizations are aware of caregiving’s direct relationship with absenteeism and presenteeism, and believe caregiving benefits will boost productivity, but many remain hesitant to make the investment.
Ninety-seven percent see caregiving as a driver of presenteeism and absenteeism, and 87 percent believe that supporting caregiving will increase workforce productivity. But when asked if their organization will provide more caregiving benefits (especially, to support Millennials who make up 25 percent of all caregivers in the U.S. currently – and numbers growing), only 56 percent state yes.
- Better methods are needed for identifying caregivers.
Third on the list of greatest barriers preventing a workplace from being caregiving-friendly, is a lack of data to identify caregivers. This is further evidenced by 38 percent of respondents stating they’re not sure if it was common for employees to spend up to 20 hours/week in a caregiving role (note: the average time a U.S. caregiver spends each week is 20+ hours). Important to this equation is that participants also note that removing negative stigma towards caregiving is key to making their workplace caregiving friendly.
- Awareness of caregiving benefits is a major struggle for employers, but more could be done to integrate those benefits with existing communication vehicles.
Only 45 percent report that their employees are aware of caregiving-related benefits at their organization and 41 percent state they are "not very" aware. Surprisingly, when asked if access to and information about caregiving benefits were integrated with other traditional health benefits communication souces (i.e., intranet), 42 percent responded "no."
- Caregiving vendors need to develop tools that create LESS work for benefits managers.
Benefits professionals have a lot on their plates. And for most, adding more management responsibilities is just not an option. Respondents noted that one of the greatest barriers preventing their workplace from being caregiving-friendly was the inability to manage additional vendors to provide caregiving services.
- There’s strong interest in digital caregiving support tools, but benefits professionals need help and guidance in selecting the right ones for their employees.
Eighty-nine percent of participants would be interested in providing digital support tools and digital-enabled support services. But only 57 percent would feel confident in choosing the right ones for their workforce.
- The C-Suite’s buy-in is critical to pushing employer-sponsored caregiving to the next level.
Expanded leave policies are #1 on the list of respondents' caregiving wish list items (followed by subsized access to digital tools), but only 51% think the C-suite will support more caregiving-friendly policies at their company. And one of the greatest reported barriers preventing a workplace from being caregiving-friendly is difficulty getting buy-in from senior leadership.
- Best practices must be shared.
About 70 percent note that employer best practices would be helpful as they consider caregiving benefits, program and policies. Special note: this year, AARP, in conjunction with ReACT, published Supporting Working Caregivers: Case Studies of Promising Practices to help respond to this call. It features 14 organizations across a variety of industries, and details how they're prioritizing and benefitting from greater caregiver support in the workplace.
- Proving the business case for caregiving benefits remains paramount.
Seventy-nine percent of survey participants want to see specific ROI on caregiving benefits before implementing them at their organization. And the most compelling case for investment would include these top three drivers: proven increase in productivity, a decrease in absenteeism and reduced health care costs.
Proving ROI is critical as a lack of financial resources is the second highest barrier to making a workplace caregiving-friendly, and the sixth highest barrier is difficulty getting buy-in from senior leadership - where proof in the numbers would help break through.
HR Leaders Also Read:
- It's National Caregivers Month - Make the Most of It With This Weekly Guide
- The Care Crisis is Here - How Can We Respond?
- The Cost of Care: Highlights from 2017 Survey Results
- Employee Stories: The Best Wedding Gift - Care for our Loved Ones
- Our Employees Shouldn't Have to Improvise to Make Life Work