Almost three out of four American workers are juggling some type of caregiving responsibility – either caring for children, aging parents, or a spouse or partner. Yet companies remain unaware of the burden this places on the workforce, and worse, they are doing little to alleviate the stress that caregiving causes their employees. These are among the findings of a study recently published by the Harvard Business School.
The study found a huge disconnect between workers’ experiences and employers’ perceptions. For example, only 24% of employers believe that caregiving affects their workforce’s productivity, while 80% of employees admit that their caregiving responsibilities do in fact interfere with their work performance.
Beyond performance, the study found that caregiving responsibilities also derail careers for workers of all ages. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed said they had left a job because of the demands of caregiving. While the birth or adoption of a child were among the top reasons cited for leaving, one third reported leaving a job to care for an elder, while a quarter said they left a job to care for an ill spouse, partner or other family member.
The cost to business is multifaceted. High turnover, loss of institutional knowledge, absenteeism and presenteeism were among the hidden costs – often difficult to quantify – identified by the study’s authors as consequences of a workforce that struggles with caregiving.
The good news is that employers can help employees effectively manage both their caregiving responsibilities and the demands of their jobs by providing benefits that assist them with their roles as caregivers. We’re not there yet, but the resources are available.
Few employers offer the types of benefits that directly address caregivers’ needs; of those that do, high percentages of employees take advantage of them, according to the survey. Healthcare coordination and advocacy, when offered as part of an employee benefit package, can provide workers with assistance, resources and peace of mind to allow them to focus fully on their jobs while they are at work. Advocates can work with and through Human Resources Departments to offer their services to employees as needed. When the costs of caregiving are considered, it becomes clear that offering access to advocates as an employee benefit is not only an asset to the employee, but it’s also good for the bottom line.
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