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Employers are overlooking the next big workplace crisis: employee caregiving responsibilities

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By Julian Hayes II


America's population in 1900 was 76 million. A century later, it had risen to 281 million. It's safe to say that 19 years later, the number has definitely risen even more.

Besides the population growing and evolving, there's another area of society rapidly growing and evolving and that's the workplace. The popularity of remote work, along with various other trends, has been discussed and brought to the forefront.

However, despite all of the discussions about improving the workplace, there's a crisis that is going unnoticed. That crisis is employee caregivers.

In a recent study titled "The Caring Company," two Harvard Business School researchers, Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman, discovered that employers underestimate the struggle (and burden) that employees face in balancing their professional and caregiving roles.

The informal care economy is massive. A 2015 AARP report estimated that over the previous 12 months, more than 43 million adult Americans had administered unpaid care to an adult who needed support or to a child with special needs. To further expound on this, it was also discovered that six out of 10 family caregivers held a job while providing unpaid caregiving support.

Why Caregiving Must Be Addressed in the Workplace

The Census Bureau projects that for every 100 working-age Americans, aged 18 to 64, there will be 72 people outside that range in 2030, up from 59 in 2010.  People may be living longer, but that doesn't guarantee a high quality of life to coincide with it. As these individuals get older, the burden falls on the employees who are going to work each and every day.

If companies want to retain top-end talent and high performance, then dedicating more attention to this issue is a must.

Also discovered in the study was that 73 percent of U.S. workers possessed some sort of caregiving role. Further exploration of these workers found that 32 percent left a job due to the difficulty of juggling their professional life with their caregiving life.

Eighty percent stated that caregiving duties prevented them from optimal performance at the workplace and 28 percent said that caregiving had hurt their careers.

To start generating some positive momentum toward this issue, here are three steps to begin with:

1. Assess your current workplace.

It's hard to alleviate an issue if you don't fully understand it. Yet many companies are attempting to do this. Some 52 percent of employers surveyed in this study don't track data on their employees' caregiving responsibilities.

If you don't track and collect data, you won't be able to get an accurate pulse of your workplace. Therefore, the first step in this process is to simply start gathering data and feedback from your employees. Sending online questions (that can be anonymous) is a simple and cost-effective way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

2. Offer subsidies and more paid time off.

Besides underestimating the severity of the situation, employers are also not providing the key benefits that employees are looking for. In the study, employers discovered that paid time off was the most important. However, only 55 percent of eligible employees utilized the benefit, and only 59 percent of the employers surveyed offered this benefit.

To help this situation, offer more paid time off and also communicate this more clearly through various company channels.

3. Offer targeted education and training.

As someone who has personally dealt with caregiving over an extended period of time, it can be stressful, conjure up many difficult emotions to process, and lead to unintentionally neglecting personal well-being.

Simply put, caregiving can lead to you also becoming sick. And it's with that notion in mind that educating individuals in this arena is pivotal. Being a caregiver is a unique and discomforting situation to be in.

Providing access to stress experts and other individuals targeted specifically to help employees navigate the difficult terrains of caregiving is a high-yielding action that will provide immediate dividends to everyone involved.

Going above and beyond by taking care of employees who are caregivers will be one of the key ways to stand out from other businesses in the imminent future.

The original "Employers Are Overlooking the Next Big Workplace Crisis: Employee Caregiving Responsibilities" article can be seen here.

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