Caregiving benefits are an important part of any wellness program, particularly with today’s growing retirement-age population and the fact that more households feature two working parents. Managing medical care for family members and paying for caretaking services can strain a caregiver-employee’s financial resources, take up a considerable amount of time, and create an enormous amount of mental and emotional stress. Personal wellness and social relationships can also take a backseat in this situation. For the 60% of American workers caring for both elderly family as well as parenting young children, it’s especially difficult. Unfortunately, all of this leads to poor performance, more days off, and decreased productivity at work—and some workers just quit.

Companies are making some efforts to help. Wellable’s 2020 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report devoted extra focus on how employers are expanding their caregiver support. Most of all, companies are prioritizing flexible work options to support caregiver-employees, including remote work and paid time off. Some employers are even expanding mental health support, including counseling services for caregivers, as well as provider referrals, making it easier for workers to find and secure care for family members.

However, many companies do not understand what employees value most for caregiving support. In a report from the Harvard Business School’s Future of Work Project, researchers discovered that caregivers that left their jobs did so because they could not afford the cost of caretaking services (53%) or could not find trustworthy help (44%). Over 90% of businesses that offered subsidies for these care services found them to be effective at retaining talent; despite this, very few companies (10%) chose to offer this service. Researchers attributed this disconnect to many companies failure to measure how employees are burdened by caregiving needs.

Additionally, employers are doing relatively little to prepare workers in advance for caretaking and end-of-life needs. Planning could save substantial time and money spent on legal and financial services, preparing workers and their families mentally and emotionally for these situations if they do arise.

Planning Saves Resources, Reduces Stress

Only one in five employees have a care plan or living will in place. At Employee Benefit Advisor’s Workplace Renaissance Conference, panelists discussed how employers should prepare their workers for the prospect of either becoming caregivers or needing care, due to unexpected health crises or diagnoses, and how to reduce the future burden on themselves and their families. While these can be difficult conversations to have, putting a plan in place will save time, money, and stress.

Preparation can benefit employees of all ages, but younger generations may need more guidance. Employers can provide their workers with content and education on how to prepare a living will or acute/extended care plan and how to save for medical emergencies, long-term care needs, and retirement. Companies can connect employees with senior care advisors or help with necessary legal services to ensure they make these plans.

Increased Awareness With COVID-19

Caregiving support has become even more important in light of the recent global outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Even those individuals that are not included in a high-risk demographic, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, find themselves responsible for protecting the health of those close to them. Many workers are further stressed by a lack of childcare, while others are attempting to adjust to altered schedules, reduced hours, or remote set-ups. Now is an opportune time to take advantage of employees’ awareness and provide relevant resources and encourage preparations be made for future medical crises and acute or extended care needs.

It may be that more employees will become caregivers for family members at this time. Provider referrals, flexible scheduling, additional paid time off, and subsidies for care can all greatly improve the financial and personal well-being of many struggling workers to get through this time. While many businesses will suffer financial losses due to closures and restrictions meant to contain the virus’ spread, employers should consider how these caregiving benefits are an excellent investment into talent retention and the long-term health and productivity of their workforce.

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