Employee benefits that support their caregiving efforts are rapidly growing in importance. Workers that care for elderly parents or other relatives devote resources, time, and energy after work hours—often at the expense of their own personal health, wellness, and productivity. As a result, it’s having a direct impact on companies’ abilities to retain and attract top talent.

More than 54 million working Americans—42% of the workforce—report they have provided care for an older relative within the last five years. As the baby boomer generation ages, more employees will continue to find themselves in this situation. By 2030, the number of people 65 and older will have doubled since 2000.

The effects on workforce productivity will be significant. Of these caregivers, over two-thirds have had to rearrange their work schedule, either by decreasing time worked or taking a leave of absence. This loss in productivity is estimated to be at $33 billion each year.

On average, these caregiver-workers spend about 29 hours per week taking care of a family member. Over a third of them ultimately quit their jobs because of the inability to manage their work schedules with caregiving responsibilities—and, according to a survey from Harvard Business School, this includes some of the most experienced and senior-level workers.

Additionally, as more workers prioritize a holistic approach to wellness and a healthy work-life balance, companies that offer benefits to best support and accommodate caregiving responsibilities will be able to attract and retain the best talent.

Supporting Caregiver-Employees With Wellness Benefits

Oftentimes, the struggles an employee faces as a caregiver go unnoticed. Personal and family issues may not be vocalized; or, for an otherwise healthy employee, it may be surprising to learn their time away from the office is so hectic, stressful, and busy. Over half of companies report that they do not track any data on their employees’ caregiving duties. As this becomes a more relevant issue, it’s important to remain mindful of the substantial effects that caregiving can have on a workforce’s mental health, personal finances, and overall well-being.

Recently, Wellable’s 2020 Wellness Industry Trends Report looked in-depth at how companies are supporting caregivers. The survey explored which benefits employers are planning to invest in to address this and found that flexible schedule options were most favored. However, there are many ways a wellness program can support caregiving needs.

  • Flexible Work Options. Flexible schedules, remote work options, and paid time off are some of the most valuable benefits for caregiver-workers. Out-of-control schedules often lead an employee to resign when they can’t work around appointments or emergencies. However, similar benefits like unpaid leave, reduced or part-time schedules, or job sharing may not be as attractive. While these benefits do help workers juggle hectic schedules, it is at the expense of earning income—and finances are often already strained from extra costs associated with caregiving. Many caregiver-workers are inclined to overwork themselves just to have sufficient finances, than risk getting into debt.
  • Counseling Services. Mental health support remains a top wellness priority for employees. Emotional, mental, and social health can all deteriorate from the stress of caring for a family member. In Wellable’s survey, many companies stated that they plan to invest more in counseling services to support caregivers. For any program that wants to effectively address mental health, stress relief and caregiver-specific support should be included.
  • Health Information and Referrals. Caregivers may feel alone or overwhelmed by trying to manage another person’s well-being. Providing education and guidance through informative resources, long-term care planning, or referrals for providers can take away some of the burden of researching and finding wellness options. Additionally, making a caregiver support network available to employees may be another way to help alleviate stress.

Other benefits such as caregiving seminars or classes, on-site care or backup emergency care options, and subsidies can also be helpful. However, because these may require more resources to implement, it’s important that their effectiveness and employee engagement are also considered.

By offering these types of benefits, companies can ensure that their caregiver-workers are able to keep working and performing at their best.

Download 2020 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report

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