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How Employers Can Support Employees Who are Caregivers

Employees who are also caregivers—either to their children, their aging parents, both children and parents, or another loved one—have a lot on their plate. And obviously, their responsibilities impact how they show up in other areas of their lives, including the workplace. It’s up to organizations to find ways to better support their employee caregivers so they can be their best at home, at work and everywhere in between. In today’s blog, we look at how companies can support caregivers in the workplace.

Employees can’t find a balance between work and caregiving.

Employees who care for loved ones find their work and caregiving duties overlapping. In fact, nearly nine in ten employed caregivers—meaning people who work and also have unpaid care responsibilities at home—depend on other care providers to free them up so they can perform their own jobs.1 And if they don’t have that support, burnout, stress, exhaustion, and other strain can crop up fast.

What caregiver friendly policies can employers put in place to help caregivers in the workplace?

If organizations want their employees to show up happy, healthy, productive and creative, they need to step in and offer the support caregivers need to be able to do their jobs effectively. Here are some benefits, caregiver friendly policies and ideas to help support caregivers in the workplace.

Offer flexible schedules.

Emergencies and unplanned responsibilities happen. But what about the day-to-day management of schedules? For example, do you have caregivers who frequently need to take time out of the workday to bring a loved one to an appointment? Or do employees need to start work a little later so they have time in the morning to take their children to school?

Providing flexible schedules is a great way to allow employees to do their work, but still have time throughout the day to take care of whatever they need to for their loved ones. Employees who are caregivers have different needs, and it’s important that they feel comfortable speaking to their manager about what schedule and employee flexibility works best for them.

Encourage remote working.

If your industry allows, remote work can be extremely helpful for employees who need to take care of a loved one. Not only do they get time back that they’d otherwise spend commuting, but they’ll also be able to be home with their loved one—potentially saving on the costs of childcare, senior care or other expensive circumstances. This caregiver friendly benefit is an excellent addition to flexible schedule arrangements, as someone who can work from home can carve out times throughout the day when they’ll be available for work and times when they need to step away to provide care.

Allow time during the workday for self-care.

Caregivers are always caring for others, and often don’t have time to care for themselves. It’s common for caregivers to put themselves last when it comes to care, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the norm.

Encourage employee caregivers to take time during the workday for self-care, including exercise, finding a well-being moment, going for a walk, scheduling and going to their own preventive care visits, and more. If you don’t allow them this personal time during the workday, you’ll have more than a burned-out employee—you’ll have an unhealthy one, too.

Build in Employee Resource Groups.

Employee caregivers need social support, too. Having a support team where they can share struggles and learn from others going through similar situations can have a tremendous positive impact on mood and mitigate the effects of burnout. If your company has Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), add some around caregiving. If your workforce includes a wide variety of employee caregivers, consider adding ERGs for specific groups, such as caregivers of aging parents, kids under five, people with disabilities, and more.

Expand mental health benefits for caregivers.

Employee caregiving benefits can also help employees improve their well-being while they’re going through such a stressful time. Some companies are expanding their access to counseling and health coaching—including mental health—to help employees combat feelings of stress, isolation, burnout, and more. Others are adding specific employee caregiver benefits to help take some of the responsibilities off the caregiver’s shoulders, such as help scheduling doctor appointments, planning daycare activities with a professional, or even hiring babysitters or home health aides to give caregivers a much-needed break. In this vein, you can also ensure your EAP offers help finding childcare and elder care that meets the needs of your employees. If it does, make sure your employee caregivers know about this resource and how to access it!

Offer additional time off.

Some companies are moving toward a new PTO strategy: unlimited time off. Just like flex schedules, this benefit gives employees more flexibility in when, where and how they work. However, to ensure employees feel comfortable enough to actually take time off, we recommend setting a minimum requirement that people must take per year. That way, employees feel more encouraged and empowered to take the time off they need to reset and recharge.

There is also the option of extending family leave to include care for someone with a serious health condition. This opportunity allows employees to take dedicated time off to help care for a loved one when they need it most, and then return to work when they’re ready.

Provide financial support.

Taking care of someone else can be a 24/7 job, and, depending on the type of care, it can get expensive quickly. Organizations are becoming more aware of the financial burdens associated with caregiving, and are releasing new caregiver friendly policies to help.

Some caregiver friendly benefits you can offer include:

  • A childcare subsidy or discounts for daycare centers
  • Flex spending accounts for dependent care expenses
  • Long-term-care insurance to help pay for home health aides or a parent’s care facility
  • Education around financial planning and budgeting

You can also provide a well-being stipend to take the load off an employee caregiver, like paying for a family meal once a week or getting a massage. But, again, the critical part here is to ensure the employee caregiver actually has time to use this benefit—so pair this with a flex schedule or generous PTO policy to let them unwind and relax when possible.

Employees who are caregivers are—arguably—going through one of the most stressful parts of their lives. And they’ll remember whether or not their employers offered them the support they needed in these moments. If they feel respected, appreciated, and cared for as a person instead of another cog in the machine, you’ll likely get healthier, happier, more productive employees.

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