I only recently learned of the work of ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time), an employer-focused organization dedicated to helping employee caregivers face their work-home challenges more effectively. It also provides tools to help employers provide better support of family caregivers.
Not long ago, ReACT partnered with AARP, along with Pfizer and the National Alliance for Caregiving, to create a free resource guide for managers and HR executives.
Why are companies being asked to take a leadership role in caregiver support? It’s not solely for the benefit of employees, who struggle with the daily demands of both employment and care of disabled or elderly loved ones at home. Companies are also concerned about the bottom line, and a less stressed caregiver is a more productive employee.
Both employees and employers are feeling the caregiving crunch. Out of over 65 million family caregivers in the U.S. today, almost three quarters also work outside the home. Looked at a different way, about one in six American workers also provide care to a loved one.
With the aging of the baby boomers, those numbers are increasing dramatically. At the turn of this century, about 650 million people around the globe were aged 60 or older. By the middle of the century, that number is projected to rise to almost 2 billion!
Unmet needs of working caregivers create huge costs – financial, emotional, and physical. For employers, the estimated loss in productivity of employee caregivers may be as much as $34 billion each year—costs due to interruptions in the workday, absenteeism, moves from full- to part-time employment, and employee replacement. However, employers who offer flexibility and support to their caregiving employees create opportunities for better recruitment and retention, as well as increased employee satisfaction.
A Gallup poll found that employers are aware of the caregivers in their workplaces. Three out of four front-line managers indicated that they know which team members are caregivers. But awareness needs to be coupled with action to provide both better employee support and greater business success.
That’s where Four Steps for Supporting Employees with Caregiving Responsibilities comes in. The employer guide lists and describes initial steps that any employer can take to improve conditions for caregivers within the company. Briefly, those four steps are:
Have the conversation. Supervisors are shown how they can talk to employees about their dual responsibilities at home and work, and ways to learn about existing resources.
Demonstrate flexibility. Employers are advised on ways to accommodate employee schedules and help them maintain a healthier work-life balance.
Embrace caregiving as the “new normal.” Employers should be aware of the rising numbers of employee caregivers in the workplace. The guide discusses ways to adapt to this new reality.
Keep caring for caregivers. Supervisors are offered way to demonstrate ongoing support for employees; e.g., keeping resources available, holding conversations on support needs, and asking for feedback.
If you would like more information on caregiver supports, AARP has created a special ReACT project information page. Or you can download the full employer resource guide here. Whether you are a family caregiver or a concerned employer, you will find the information to be valuable and relevant.