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The Challenges of Modern-Day Caregiving:
How Employers Can Help

8AM: Summer camp registration. 10AM: Mom’s doctor appointment. 2PM: Parent-teacher conference. 4PM: Soccer game.

Sound familiar? Whether you’re starting a new family, raising school-age children, or caring for an aging parent, it can be hard to keep all the balls in the air while still giving 100% at work. The good news is that many employers are starting to respond to the challenges of caregiving in new and welcome ways.

Support for parents.

Companies know that offering great maternal, paternal, and adoptive leave policies is key to attracting and retaining talent—especially millennials.  A host of companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Reynolds American, Target, Unum, VF, and XPO Logistics (to name a few)—have all recently added generous parental leave benefits. One Utah-based start-up, Canopy, even allows new parents to bring their babies into the office until they are six months old!

Paid parental leave benefits are on the rise.

According to the latest statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), between 2016 and 2018 the number of employers offering:

  • Paid maternity leave increased from 26% to 35%; and
  • Paid paternity leave increased from 21% to 29%.

Caring for school-age children isn’t much easier.

The bell typically rings around 3PM, leaving workers with a big gap to fill in the afternoon. Not to mention the challenge of scheduling two-plus months of summer camps. Some employers are trying to help, like global consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The firm has been working hard over the last decade to instill a “culture of flexibility” across the firm.

New ways of working.

PwC recognizes that flexibility means different things to different people: “Flexibility for a caregiver might mean being able to leave work early to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment. For a parent, it might mean taking a midday run, so evenings can be spent with their children.”1 According to Anne Donovan, U.S. People Experience Leader at PwC, “It’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach for flexibility. We let our teams figure out what works best for them, as long as they deliver excellent work, on time.”

Care across the generations.

Caregiving demands can be particularly difficult for the “Sandwich Generation”— Generation X workers who are caring for children and an elderly relative. A recent Employee Benefit News article states that more than half of Gen X workers are caregivers and this number will continue to grow.1

Caring for aging parents requires time away from work and is expensive — close to $7,000 per year, according to the AARP.2 Not to mention the physical and emotional toll. An Embracing Carers survey found that 55% of caregivers say their own physical health has diminished, 54% say they don’t have time to tend to their own medical needs, and 47% report feeling depressed.3

Employers are starting to take note. Starbucks offered a new caregiver benefit last year, which includes back-up child and adult care. Other employers offer discounts for senior home care, elder day care, and emergency senior care benefits. Employee Assistance Programs, a standard at most large employers, can help caregivers cope with mental health effects. And well-being programs give employees a way to reduce stress and focus on their own health.

Caregiving will always be a challenge. Fortunately, employers are making the connection that helping employees with their caregiving demands today can result in better productivity, engagement, and overall happiness tomorrow—which ultimately affects every company’s bottom line.

 

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