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The Best Ways to Support and Retain Working Caregivers

Quick look: A growing portion of today’s workforce are caregivers responsible for the health of their chronically ill, disabled, or aging loved ones. Unfortunately, the workplace isn’t always conducive to caregivers’ success – but business leaders are often unaware of that. In this blog, explore who today’s working caregivers are, what hurdles they face at work, and how to attract and retain them by providing the right support, flexibility, and employee benefits.

As an employer, you have a lot on your plate, but one thing you shouldn’t ignore is the segment of your workers who are caregivers. The number of caregivers – or those who provide unpaid care for chronically ill, disabled, or aged loved ones – is on the rise. From 2015 to 2020, the number of caregivers in the U.S. has risen from 43.5 million to 53 million, and 61% of those also hold paid positions.

Providing care is physically and emotionally taxing and can take a toll on your staff. Luckily, there are several ways your business can help – and many reasons why you should. Read on to explore what today’s working caregivers look like, why they’re important, what challenges they face in the workplace, and how you can attract and retain them.

The Modern-Day Caregiver

Without asking, it can be hard to know who’s a caregiver and who isn’t – and the demographics might surprise you. For example, did you know that a whopping 40% of caregivers are men, and 25% are millennials?

It’s also important to know that many caregivers also belong to the “sandwich generation.” According to Pew Research Center, 47% of middle-aged Americans belong to this generation of people who simultaneously support parents aged 65 and older, and children under the age of 18.

Why You Should Care about Caregivers

At any given time, there are millions of working caregivers from all walks of life. These devoted, hardworking employees are invaluable to society – and to your organization.

Working and caregiving are hitting a crossroads and creating a significant talent management issue due to an aging population, an increasingly female workforce, and the most challenging job market in recent years. COVID-19 also has a hand to play in the situation – the pandemic has caused many caregiving workers to reduce their hours, quit their jobs, or choose new careers that provide a better work-life balance.

Simply put, if you aren’t meeting your caregivers’ needs, another employer will. By quickly adapting to satisfy these dedicated, skilled workers’ needs, you will retain your top talent and foster an even more respectful, empowering relationship with them. Another plus? You’ll build a better bottom line by avoiding the high cost of hiring a new employee.

What’s Work Like for Caregivers?

The first step to improving a caregiver’s experience at work is to understand it. According to a Harvard Business School study,

  • 59% of caregiving employees agreed that caregivers are perceived as less committed to their careers than non-caregivers in their workplace
  • 55% said caregivers are less likely to progress as fast as their peers, even if they put forth the same effort
  • While only 24% of employers felt that caregiving influenced workers’ performance, 80% of employee caregivers believed caregiving affected their productivity
  • 32% of working caregivers admitted to leaving jobs that didn’t support their caregiving needs

Believe it or not, these statistics show a great deal of opportunity.

Caregivers’ needs are often invisible to business leaders. Caregivers’ stress tends to go unnoticed because workers are afraid to use their allotted benefits or request additional flexibility. Because of that silence, employers assume caregivers are satisfied, but there are several ways to break that cycle.

Having honest conversations regarding what work is like for your caregiving employees, and shining a light on ways you can improve their experience, can improve your staff’s lives, mental health, and overall wellbeing, as well as your turnover rate.

How Employers Can Create a Caring Environment

Ready to get started strengthening your company culture and the relationship you have with your caregivers? Below are several ways you can build a work environment conducive to caregiving workers’ success.

Understand Evolving Caregiver Needs

Simply being aware of caregiver needs is a huge step that can bridge the gap of miscommunication between caregivers and their employers. A great way to keep a pulse on these ever-changing needs is to regularly survey employees and evaluate your company’s demographics to ensure you’re offering the most helpful benefits.

In addition to surveys, leadership should regularly encourage employees to discuss any caregiving needs they may have. The more frequently these needs are brought into conversation, the more comfortable and communicative employees will be.

Already have benefits designed to reduce caregivers’ stress? Promote them often through internal communications designed to drive awareness and empower employees to use them.

Keep a Pulse on Potential Solutions

Did your survey results show that some of your workers are facing caregiving challenges? Take the interaction a step further and encourage employees to discuss their needs (and potential solutions) in detail with their manager or the human resources department. Fully understanding what these employees need will help you stay a step ahead when it comes to adding new benefits or expanding existing ones.

Be Flexible

In many ways, your caregiving workers have two jobs – one in the office and one at home with their loved one(s). Meeting them halfway and providing flexible work options, when possible, is worth its weight in gold.

Some examples of ways to make caregivers’ lives easier are:

  • Allow telecommuting. If someone has an elderly parent at home to take care of, allowing them to work remotely can be infinitely helpful. Remote work can allow employees to seamlessly integrate tasks like meal preparation or medicine administration into their workday. And there’s no better time to permit telecommuting – in many industries remote or hybrid work is now the norm, and has paved the path for the widespread adoption of platforms and applications that allow people to work anywhere, with maximum productivity.
  • Offer compressed work weeks. Caregivers often need to take their loved ones to doctor appointments, or they desire spending as much quality time with them as possible. Offering compressed work weeks, like four 10-hour workdays, can make that possible – without reducing their workload.
  • Provide flexible hours. If possible, allowing caregiver employees to work an earlier or later shift than normal can help them take care of all their at-home responsibilities – and work a full day.
  • Be open to part-time employment. Caregiving sometimes falls into a person’s lap unexpectedly. If a full-time employee suddenly becomes a caregiver, it can be helpful to allow them to work part-time hours and hire a second part-time worker to ensure the job is getting done.

Provide the Right Resources

Knowledge is key, especially for workers who may be navigating complex issues tied to caregiving. Employers can ease the burden by providing access to advisory services through voluntary benefit offerings that give employees advice on insurance claims, legal or financial issues, long-term care facilities, and more.

Another important piece of information for your caregiving employees is that they are not alone. Consider implementing internal resource groups where caregivers can share ideas and experiences. As an employer, you have the power to not only accommodate workers’ needs, but to enrich their lives, improve their wellbeing, and provide much-needed support.

You’re Not Alone, Either – Your PEO is Here to Help

Offering the support, flexibility, and employee benefits caregivers need can be easy when you work with a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO, like ExtensisHR, can help with:

  • Benefits administration and planning. You can receive access to Fortune 500-level benefits from the best providers, at competitive prices, as well as the technology, resources, and experts needed to simplify administration, compliance, and support.
  • Employee benefits: A PEO’s benefits experts will work together with you to create and manage flexible, cost-efficient solutions to attract and retain employee caregivers.
  • Supplemental benefits: Make nearly every part of your employee caregivers’ lives easier by offering ancillary benefits like legal services, income protection, an employee assistance program, and more.

Ready to take the first step toward improving your caregiver employees’ lives? The experts at ExtensisHR are here to help.

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