How Caregiving Affects your Workforce
by Tricia Sandiego, AARP Senior Advisor, Caregiving and Health
As the number of older adults continues to grow in this country, the professional resources needed to care for them are shrinking. It is predicted that by the year 2034, adults age 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18, with less potential caregivers relative to the number of older adults needing long-term care.
As a result, family members – your employees – will have to step up to fill that need.
While caregiving is a role all of us are likely to play at some point in our lives, it can be extremely challenging.
There are currently 53 million caregivers in the United States, and 73% of them are still working. That means many of your employees are struggling to find the balance between caring for a loved one and keeping up with the demands of their careers. And, because many caregiving responsibilities can only be accomplished during normal business hours, employees can often be less engaged because they need to spend at least part of their workday:
- Setting up healthcare appointments
- Consulting with doctors
- Arranging deliveries
- Dealing with emergencies
- Coordinating care
- Serving as an advocate on behalf of the person in their care
This constant balancing act causes stress and anxiety for employees and impacts talent management for employers.
The effects of caregiving challenges in the workplace
Juggling the intense demands of caring for a loved one while maintaining their productivity at work can affect an employee’s mental health, causing feelings of isolation or depression. Caregiving can also impact their physical health, since they are less likely to have the time and energy for self-care. This can lead to illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, causing higher healthcare costs for employers.
Without the right support, some caregiving employees will drop out of the workforce, which can cost six to nine months of an employee’s salary in recruiting and training costs to replace them. For those that stay, it can cost an employer $2,721 per employee by not offering support for caregiving needs, according to a MetLife study on caregiving costs.
The toll caregiving takes on employees
When employed caregivers don’t have the support they need at work to manage their responsibilities at home, they have to make changes to their work/life balance. A recent AARP study on working caregivers shows the impact this challenge is having:
- 53% have to go in late, leave early or take time off
- 15% have to reduce their hours
- 14% have to take a leave of absence
- 8% receive performance or attendance warnings
- 7% turn down promotions
- 6% give up work altogether
- 5% retire early
- 4% lose job benefits
Many employees may not feel comfortable talking about their caregiving responsibilities at work. Some may think it makes them appear less available and committed to doing their job, while others may be worried it will keep them from being considered for a promotion or other new opportunities. That’s why only 53% of caregivers say their employer is even aware of their situation.
Caregiving also takes a financial toll on your employees. According to another recent AARP study, caregivers spend an average of $7,242 annually on out-of-pocket costs related to taking care of an older loved one.
Times are changing, but so are needs
The idea that life can get in the way of work is nothing new. Many companies are responsive to employees’ family obligations during pregnancies and adoptions by crafting generous maternity and parental leave policies, and by redefining how sick days can be used.
But caring intermittently or on a long-term basis for aging or ill relatives or family members with disabilities isn’t considered in the same way. Family caregiving is less predictable in many ways and less talked about at work.
According to AARP's Public Policy Institute, the rate of employee caregiving is increasing, which will only present more challenges for employers and employees in the future.
What employers can do
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a caregiving-friendly workplace. The types of caregiving-related support you can offer vary based on your size, resources, type of workforce and how you operate. But every employer can make a commitment to changing their workplace culture to be more responsive to caregiving employees’ needs.
As an employer, you have a unique opportunity to support your employees by supporting their care-related obligations. This may include:
- More flexible work options
- Additional family leave and paid sick days
- Providing access to counseling and support services
- Elder care referrals through an online database or in-person consultant
- A culture of understanding about elder care needs
When you make your workplace more caregiving friendly, you can reap the benefits too. Research shows that employers can yield higher profits by making family-friendly policies more accessible, because the overall availability of benefits is associated with higher margins. Employees who receive caregiving support are 30% more likely to stay with employers. Plus, for every dollar invested in flexible time and telecommuting, you can receive $1.70 to $4.45 in ROI.
By helping your employees tackle their caregiving challenges at home, you can also:
- Maximize productivity – Employees who feel supported at work are happier and more productive
- Improve employees’ physical and emotional health – Healthy, focused employees require less sick time.
- Attract and retain talent – When people know you make your employees a priority, they want to work for you. If they are a current employee, they will want to stay.
- Reduce operating costs – By lowering healthcare costs and other workplace costs, you can improve your bottom line.
Help working caregivers with an AARP workshop
AARP has created a series of tailored in-person and virtual workshops to provide employers with resources on family caregiving. These workshops can help you create a more caregiving-inclusive culture in your workplace, while giving your employees the tools they need to thrive at work and in their caregiving roles.
Free workshop series for your organization
Learn more about how to customize a single workshop or series of workshops across these topics:
1. Navigating My Workplace as a Caregiver
2. Manager Training: Leading a Team That is Caregiver-Inclusive
3. How Every Employee Resource Group (ERG) Can Support Family Caregivers
4. Preparing to Become a Family Caregiver
5. Preparing to Age at Home
6. Self-care for Family Caregivers
7. Financial Well-being for Family Caregivers
8. The Sandwich Generation: Caring for Kids and Adults
9. Making the Most of My Benefits as a Caregiver
10. Caregiving as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Challenge and Opportunity
About Tricia Sandiego
As a Senior Advisor for AARP’s Caregiving & Health team, I am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) experienced in health communication and public health research and practice. My passion is educating older adults and their families on caregiving and health care through programs, online tools and resources. I lead caregiving employer outreach for AARP, and I am here to offer you practical tips, guidance and free resources on how to provide support for your working family caregivers.
If you have any questions, please see our workshops page or contact me directly at TSandiego@aarp.org.