Caregiving Crisis: Are U.S. Employers Looking the Other Way?

Caregiving Crisis

“American companies are facing a caregiving crisis—they just refuse to acknowledge it.”

That’s the opening of a recent Harvard Business School (HBS) report titled “The Caring Company,” a wake-up call to the nation’s employers on the alarming human and organizational toll of caregiving. To make certain employers don’t hit the snooze button, the report goes on to state, “This neglected care crisis is only going to worsen.”

The HBS report shares data from two surveys conducted among hundreds of employers and employees, and it sheds light on how the burgeoning caregiving crisis is already wreaking havoc with workers and their employers.

Here’s a sampling of the data:

  • The Pervasiveness of Caregiving—73% of employees surveyed already report having some type of current caregiving responsibility. (The key word here is “current.” This figure doesn’t even take into account individuals who’ve had past caregiving responsibilities or the many who will be caregivers in the near future.)
  • Caregiving Erodes Performance—More than 80% of employees with caregiving responsibilities admit that caregiving affects their productivity—specifically, their ability to perform their best at work all the time (33%), most of the time (14%), and sometimes (36%).
  • Turnover Caused by Caregiving—Nearly one-third of employees report voluntarily leaving a job due to caregiving responsibilities. Notably, these aren’t just older workers: 50% of employees aged 26 to 35 and 27% of employees aged 18 to 25 report leaving a job due to caregiving burdens.
  • Impact on the C-Suite and Management—Upper-level managers, senior leaders, and highly paid men were the most likely individuals to report that their jobs and productivity are affected by caregiving.
  • Employers Don’t Fully Understand the Impacts of Caregiving—Shockingly, only 24% of employers recognize that caregiving influences their employees’ performance. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that most employers (52%) don’t track caregiving-related data for their employees and few employees are willing to admit to their employers that they are caregivers out of fear that it will undermine their career prospects.

The upshot is that caregiving is laced with “hidden costs,” including major turnover and productivity losses, which are already undermining the wellbeing of American companies and their workforces. And the future looks even more troubling.

The Cold Truth

The Cold Truth
The HBS report makes it clear that the demand for and intensity of caregiving are only going to increase as our population ages. “More workers will have substantial caregiving obligations, causing them to arrive on the job physically drained and emotionally distracted. Their workdays will be subject to unplanned interruptions, undermining their productivity and inhibiting their longer-term career prospects,” the report states.

That has to send a chill through forward-thinking employers.

The HBS report is of undeniable value—if American employers embrace it, which is uncertain in light of the report’s somewhat critical tone. Telling employers they “remain strangely unaware” of the magnitude of caregiving’s economic consequences or “largely oblivious to” the growing costs of caregiving, for example, might undercut their willingness to take the report’s key messages to heart.

However, for those ready to acknowledge the escalating caregiving crisis, the question is: What can they do to combat it?

We’ll discuss that in our next post.

If you’d like to learn more about caregiving-related benefits or other programs designed to help your employees better integrate their work and personal responsibilities, contact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.