According to a 2015 AARP report, 43.5 million people in the United States reported that they have to be a caregiver for a loved one. The care they provide is usually for an aging parent, spouse, sibling or child with disabilities. Out of these 43.5 million people, a full 75% are not paid for their services. And yet, for a large number of these people, they are still required to do provide the best care for their loved ones, come to work and be productive.
How do these numbers affect employee productivity? How does it affect their health? As an employer, do you know how many people in your company have to face this extra responsibility?
While this topic may seem like one employees should deal with on their own, for an employer who is looking out for the overall health of employees the following points are worth considering.
Find out which of your employees is providing unpaid care to their elderly and/or disabled loved ones.
This is the first step in starting a conversation around supporting your employees who have the extra burden of being caregivers. This is a question that can be easily asked through a health assessment.
Once you’ve determined which of your employees has to be a caregiver at home, have personal interviews with them.
A one-on-one interview with people who are also family caregivers is helpful in ascertaining the needs of the employee. You will be able to find out things like:
- How long the employee has to commute
- When they are finally able to get to sleep
- How they feel about their extra responsibilities
- How you can support them as an employer
These types conversations sound unusual. But as we have more and more people playing the dual role of caregiver and breadwinner for their families, it is important that 21st-century employers ask these pertinent questions.
Your organization might be large. So while you may not be able to carry out these conversations as the CEO of your company, you might be able to designate the conversation to a company psychologist for instance.
How can you support them?
The next step in the process is to figure out how you can support employees who are caregivers. There is no easy answer. Every individual in your company will have a unique situation. However, based on the data you collect from talking to your staff, you will be able to find out what their needs are. Here are ways to support them.
- If their work/tasks are such that they could perform it remotely, you might want to test allowing such a person to work remotely. Of course, this will come with evaluating people’s personality and their ability to work independently. If you have an employer that works very well independently, this is one way you could support them. If it is impossible to let them work remotely all week, could you let them work one day remotely?
- Could there be a financial incentive for people who have to take care of elderly and disabled loved ones?
- Another way of supporting is to provide mental health and counseling services to employees who have to care for their loved ones. It is challenging to hear that a parent who was once sharp now has Alzheimer’s and now needs care. For these people, the financial burden of caring for a loved one is also a major concern and source of stress. Most individuals who have to provide care for their loved ones go through a lot of psychological stress. And chances are, if they are spending their money on caring for their loved one, they will not be willing to spend money on themselves to get the psychological care they need.
In such instances, mental health resources that are made available for free or at a reduced cost for employees is a relief that will help employees cope better with their life circumstances. Health is holistic. This means that a healthy employee is not just one who is healthy in body.
A healthy employee has a healthy mind too. For many workers around the United States, acting as a caregiver for an elderly or disabled loved one is draining -physically, emotionally and psychologically. As an employer, if you take the time to care for these needs of your employees, you will not only have productive workers; you will gain loyal colleagues.
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