One in five Americans workers report providing care to an elderly or disabled family member or friend. For a company like Nike, with 73,000 employees, that’s nearly 14,600 care partners.
It may surprise those of you in Human Resources to know that 56% of care partners do not report their caregiving responsibilities to their supervisor or HR office. And for care partners, it might surprise you that doing so can make your ability to do your best as both an employee and a care partner more rewarding.
It’s not difficult to generalize the impact one employee can have on office morale when they are in crisis. Most businesses have a team ethos and collaborate to “help” their colleague though most don’t realize that the average length of a family caregiving commitment is 4 years. A lot of resentment amongst the team can build up over this time.
It becomes more difficult to mitigate impact on the team when the employee care partner is in a leadership or senior position, which is becoming more prevalent as our elders are living longer. In these situations, caregiving is falling to individuals who are aged 50+. A nearly two decades old study by the MetLife Mature Market Group reported that the 10 million care partners in this age group caring for their parents lose an estimated $3 trillion in wages, pensions, retirement funds, and benefits.
If that number is surprising, you will find others just as staggering – the cost of informal caregiving in terms of lost productivity to US businesses is reported at $33 billion a year. Employers pay $13.4 billion more per year in health care costs to family care partners than employees without these responsibilities. And this figure does not include health and counseling benefits for those suffering extended grief and depression following the death of their loved one.
Despite having more benefits provided, nearly 415% of family care partners leave their job to have more time to care for their loved one. Among them, 34% leave because their work does not provide flexible hours. Half of those who remain working arrive to work late, leave early or take time off to provide care which impacts their coworkers and general office morale.
However, employers don’t want to lose good employees, they don’t want to report lost productivity or poor employee morale. Which is why I believe that the office of Human Resources should become every care partner’s best friend. To do that, HR needs to be more approachable on the topic which means to go beyond FMLA.
While Caregiven’s vision is to empower care partners and enable them to be more present in their role, this is inclusive of their role as employee. The app offers peace of mind and time management as well as simple utilities so that care partners need not leave their work to participate in caregiving appointments. While our products will significantly impact the end-of-life caregiving experience, Human Resources approaches within your business can do so much more.
It starts with an openness to discuss ways to work together to achieve the collective goal of your retaining a quality employee and their desire to be present for their loved one. Is that flextime? The ability to work remotely? Or adopting a policy that values the care partner employees based on job performance rather than holding them to antiquated measures. Perhaps most importantly, modifying your employee assistance program offerings to include learning opportunities with professionals in the caregiving space, promotes conversation amongst employees who are also care partners, offer eldercare support and referral services, and resources like Caregiven.
Implementing these practices is easy; it starts with one employee care partner whose experience with Human Resources exceeds their expectations. They will become your spokesperson and their experience will encourage the 56% of their peers who’ve been struggling in their position but intimidated to speak to you about their caregiving responsibilities to come forward. And to make you their best friend.