Employers: It’s Time To “Be Care Curious” and Close the Gap on Misaligned Benefits

Employers It’s Time To “Be Care Curious”

November is National Family Caregivers Month and its official 2019 theme is “Be Care Curious” (#BeCareCurious). It’s a shout out to the nation’s family caregivers that encourages them to ask questions and explore options when making care-related decisions.

“Be Care Curious” could also serve as a rallying cry for America’s employers, encouraging them to learn more about their organizations’ family caregivers and how caregiving affects their productivity, health, and finances.

The need for employers to learn more about their organizations’ family caregivers was a key pillar of the Harvard Business School’s 2018 report, The Caring Company, which warned, “Many companies appear not to understand which (caregiving-related) benefits their employees most desire or which address their employees’ most pressing care needs.” As proof, the report offered up a trove of compelling statistics including this: 78% of employees who care for loved ones indicate that caregiver referral services are a “very important” factor in their decision to stay with an employer. Yet, only 38% of employers thought these services effectively retain employees.

Remarking on this astonishing gap between the views of employers and employees, the report stated, “The extent of this misalignment suggests that employers are poorly informed about the needs and preferences of their workforce and that employees do not have any ready mechanism for expressing those preferences.”

Closing the Support Gap
As we’ve written in the past, the best way to understand your employees’ benefits needs and preferences is to ask them directly. You can do this anonymously (via surveys and questionnaires) or face-to-face (at meetings, benefits fairs and the like), whichever you believe will generate the most honest responses. Knowing exactly what your employees need and want enables you to support them more effectively and ensures the programs you invest in deliver the best possible ROI.

Closing the Support Gap

In the meantime, if you’re interested in strengthening your company’s overall support for family caregivers, there are programs and practices that almost all caregivers need. Flexible work arrangements are a great example. Recent studies show that flexible work arrangements make family caregivers happier, healthier and more productive. Genworth’s 2018 Beyond Dollars research, for example, found that fewer caregivers miss work (70% in 2018 versus 77% in 2015) when they have flexible work arrangements, and fewer have to cut back their work hours (46% in 2018 versus 52% in 2015). Outcomes like these are why more and more employers consider flexible work arrangements to be a “table stakes” benefit.

Here are three other essential caregiver support programs you should consider:

  1. Referral Services—As noted above, 78% of caregiving employees indicate that referral services are “very important” to their retention. The most effective caregiver referral services will go beyond simply offering confirmed referrals to providers nationwide; your employees also should have 24/7 access to expert guidance from bachelor- and master-level specialists who can help them choose the most appropriate providers, answer their questions, and share helpful educational materials. A variety of online tools, interactive content, informative webinars, and other resources should also be available to employees. Some referral services, such as LifeCare’s, even provide a discount shopping platform that saves employees money on purchases of caregiving-related products and services.
  1. Senior Care Management—Given the growth of the nation’s aging population and the resulting rise in the number of family caregivers, a high-quality senior care management program provides an array of invaluable support services to employees who care for older parents, spouses, family members and friends. These services include in-person assessments of elders; detailed care recommendations; 24/7 telephonic and online access to experienced senior care specialists; and a host of online resources that will keep your employees focused and productive at work.
  1. Backup Care—Nearly half of all parents miss an average of four days of work at least once every six months, and workers who care for aging loved ones miss more than 126 million workdays per year. Many of these absences are due to breakdowns in their regular child and elder care arrangements. A state-of-the-art backup care program keeps your organization’s caregivers from having to take time off, and it saves them from the stress of scrambling to find reliable alternate care at the last minute. Positive organizational benefits of backup care include reduces absenteeism and presenteeism, improved productivity and engagement, and better health for your family caregivers.

Implementing programs like these will better align your company’s benefits to your employees’ actual needs and preferences. And it will help you establish the kind of supportive workplace every employee appreciates.

If you’d like to learn more about how high-quality caregiver support programs can boost your employees’ productivity and your organization’s bottom line, contact us here or call us at (833) 282-3366.

Supporting Your Sandwich Generation Employees Is Smart Business

Supporting Your Sandwich Generation Employees Is Smart Business

Statistically speaking, nearly one-quarter of your employees who care for a child, parent or friend are actually Sandwich Generation caregivers, meaning they’re caring for children and aging loved ones simultaneously. Their numbers are expected to grow substantially as the population ages and seniors live longer.

This surge in Sandwich Generation employees could cost you dearly in several crucial ways. The good news is … It doesn’t have to.

The Heavy Toll of Caregiving
The organizational and personal costs of caregiving are substantial and well documented. (Many are outlined here.)

As for sandwiched caregivers in particular, a whopping 83% of them report they’re struggling to balance caregiving, work and other responsibilities. These employees are far more likely to miss work and be less productive due to the constant pressures of caregiving. They also tend to be more stressed and spend less time caring for themselves, which results in their own costly health issues. Additionally, a recent survey conducted by Harvard Business School revealed that 32% of U.S. employees voluntarily left a job due to caregiving responsibilities.

Rather than waiting for those statistics to worsen, savvy employers are implementing a variety of programs to support their caregiving employees.

3 Foundational Pillars of Support

3 Foundational Pillars of Sandwich Generation Support
Two of the most written-about benefits that support family caregivers are flexible work arrangements and paid time off. However, these solutions require significant up-front analysis and a substantial investment. Whether or not you choose to implement them, your strategy for supporting caregivers should rest upon these three indispensable pillars:

  1. Support for Working Parents —Nearly half of all working parents miss an average of four days of work at least once every six months. You can reduce this absenteeism (and other negative impacts such as diminished performance and productivity levels). Implement a comprehensive support program to help parents navigate and source solutions ranging from infancy through transitioning to college. It will give employees 24/7 telephonic and online access to bachelor- and master-level child care specialists, confirmed referrals to trustworthy providers, and a wealth of interactive educational content, webinars and other tools.
  2. Support for Employees Providing Care to a Senior — Employees who serve as caregiver for elder parents or family members often are faced with complex, confusing and time consuming challenges. A high-quality senior care management program provides a spectrum of invaluable services including in-person assessments; detailed care recommendations; 24/7 telephonic and online access to experienced senior care specialists; and a host of educational resources to help your employees become better family caregivers.
  3. Solutions for Employees When Care Plans Are Disrupted —A great backup care program benefits your employees by giving them access to reliable care alternatives when their regular arrangements break down; it also helps your company slash absenteeism/presenteeism, productivity losses, stress and the poor health issues that frequently afflict family caregivers. A state-of-the-art backup care program offers some very specific advantages: it’s available to your employees around the clock; it gives employees access to live, highly trained care representatives, not just an online database of caregivers; it’s flexible, allowing employees to use (and pay) privately secured care including trusted family members and friends as backup caregivers; and it provides invaluable educational resources regarding the care of children, older loved ones, pets, and employees themselves.

Helping employees better manage their competing caregiving and work-related priorities is more than the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.

If you’d like to learn more about caregiving-related benefits to support your sandwich generation employees 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.

Why You’ll Lose Talent Without Caregiving Benefits

Why You’ll Lose Talent Without Caregiving Benefits

If you don’t have strong caregiving support programs in place, plan to lose valuable talent to employers who do. And it won’t just be the rank and file who jump ship. You’ll lose upper-level managers and even C-suite executives.

This warning to U.S. businesses is a key theme of Harvard Business School’s (HBS) report, “The Caring Company,” which we wrote about previously here and here.

“When it’s too hard to provide care and work at the same time, people end up leaving the workforce,” the report stated. In fact, nearly one-third of employees surveyed by HBS voluntarily left a job due to caregiving responsibilities. Notably, upper-level managers, senior leaders and highly paid men were most likely to report that their jobs and productivity are affected by caregiving.

“But the flip side is a very real incentive,” noted the report. “If you, as an employer, provide benefits that allow people to live full lives and take care of their families … your talent pool opens up tremendously, because there are millions of people who want to work, while providing for their families at the same time.”

The upshot is clear: caregiving benefits significantly impact talent acquisition and retention, and companies that offer these benefits have a distinct advantage in the escalating war for talent.

4 Programs Employees Absolutely Love

4 Programs Employees Absolutely Love
Since the 1980s, LifeCare has championed caregiving solutions as powerful talent acquisition and retention boosters. The HBS report emphatically affirms our position and the growing importance of caregiving solutions to the future of U.S. businesses.

Based on more than three decades of experience, we’ve found there are four caregiving-related programs you should strongly consider implementing—programs that our clients’ employees have consistently rated as most helpful to them. These programs are:

  1. Backup Care—This industry-leading program helps employees find and pay for reliable temporary care when their normal care arrangements fall through, so they can get to work. LifeCare’s program is particularly known for its quality and flexibility: it covers children, elder loved ones, pets and self care; it gives employees access to a fully vetted national network of caregivers as well as a robust selection of out-of-network options; with the ability to schedule care either via phone or online, 24/7. In 2018, 87% of our clients’ employees who used Backup Care Connection said the program reduced their stress levels, 85% said it increased their productivity and 87% said it made them more loyal to their employer. On average, the program saved each user more than 16 hours per use.
  2. Elder Care Referrals & Counseling—Employees have 24/7 online and telephonic access to highly trained and credentialed elder care specialists, as well as confirmed referrals to elder care providers nationwide and an array of educational materials, interactive content, webinars and specialized tools such as our Adult Caregivers Kit. In 2018, 69% of individuals who used Elder Care referrals and counseling services said they increased their productivity, 82% said they made them more loyal, and 99% said they’d recommend the program to their coworkers. On average, the program saved each user roughly 14 hours per use.
  3. Senior Caregiver Support Program—LifeCare’s comprehensive program provides each employee with a full in-person needs assessment of their aging loved one’s home and condition by a Senior Care Manager, followed by a detailed care recommendation plan based on the evaluation, and 24/7 support from senior care specialists. Our client organizations report a number of benefits including reduced absenteeism, improved physical and mental health of their employees and less turnover due to burnout. Last year, 78% of those who used our Senior Care Management Program said it reduced their stress levels, 73% said it increased their productivity and 85% said it made them more loyal to their employer. On average, the program saved users about 13 hours per use.
  4. Mothers at Work Program—This award-winning program supports mothers so they can successfully transition back to work while breastfeeding. It provides the option for a breast milk shipping service, so working mothers who travel can safely ship their milk home, along with 24/7 access to lactation consultants who offer guidance on breastfeeding challenges and concerns. The program also provides mothers with prescreened referrals to local lactation resources, discounted breast pumps and a unique kit filled with free breastfeeding products and information. In 2018, 93% of those who used our Mothers at Work Program said it reduced their stress levels, 56% said it increased their productivity and 77% said it raised their loyalty level. On average, the program saved users about 5 hours per use.

Employees of all ages and at all levels need your assistance in meeting their mounting caregiving demands. Helping your organization’s caregivers is not only critical to their wellbeing and success, but to your organization’s as well.

If you’d like to learn more about implementing caregiver support benefits or other results-oriented work-life programs, contact us here or call us at 866-675-3751.

4 Strategies for Managing Your Company’s Caregiving Costs

4 Strategies for Managing Your Company’s Caregiving Costs

Previously, we shared key insights from Harvard Business School’s (HBS) report, “The Caring Company,” which highlights the shocking turnover and productivity losses caregiving inflicts on U.S. companies.

To gain control over these losses, HBS recommends that employers shift their perspective on caregiving—viewing it as a talent management challenge rather than merely a potential benefit expense—and consider these four strategies:

1. Promulgate a culture of caregiving. Such a culture requires “management to demonstrate commitment through sustained, consistent action, reassuring employees that the organization welcomes openness about caregivers’ obligations and wishes to support employees confronting caregiving issues,” the report states. “That, in turn, will oblige the organization to develop a visible, systematic plan to help employees balance their personal and professional lives, a plan that covers both on-boarding and reentry into the workplace.”

2. Adopt a framework for balancing career and life paths. “Companies will need to design career paths that are more compatible with their employees’ life paths,” the report says. These career paths must take into account the predictable patterns of a caregiver’s life and responsibilities. Doing so will enable employers to provide specific communication, support and care benefits these people need at the exact times they need it.

3. Identify the hidden costs of caregiving. “Companies cannot assess the merits of investing in more substantial care solutions without understanding the hidden cost of caregiving,” the report observes. Uncovering these hidden costs requires a number of actions including conducting a care census (a profile of the company’s care demographics and needs); developing metrics for understanding the actual magnitude of caregiving costs incurred; and pinpointing the turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism caused by caregiving. All of these actions serve as the foundation for developing an explicit care strategy and making “prudent investments” that offset turnover and productivity losses.

4. Boost the productivity of caregiving employees. This involves adopting a test-and-learn approach to implementing caregiving benefits (i.e., experimenting with benefits before deploying them widely); giving special consideration to benefits focused on critical roles and/or hard-to-fill positions; providing on-boarding benefits to returning employees; and even collaborating with other employers and local governments to develop shared solutions.

7 Steps Toward a New Competitive Advantage

7 Steps Toward a New Competitive Advantage

Recognizing how daunting all of this might seem, the HBS authors also outline seven steps toward implementing these strategies:

Step 1: Conduct a care census to ascertain your organization’s care demographics. This critical first step, as outlined by the report, is essential if you aim to develop metrics for understanding the actual magnitude of your company’s caregiving-related costs. A care census entails: a) identifying the nature and scale of your workforce’s care needs; b) evaluating the relevance of your existing caregiving benefits; c) exploring the possibility of expanding these benefits; and d) capturing the returns associated with greater employee retention and productivity. Crucially, a care census also enables you to update your standard career paths to better reflect the life paths of today’s caregiving employees.

Step 2: Ensure that current employees are more aware of the benefits your company already offers. “Many employees appear to be unaware of the availability of care-related benefits,” according to HBS. You must communicate consistently about the caregiving benefits you already offer—and to reassure employees that your company “accepts the legitimacy of (their) care concerns.”

Step 3: Survey employees on their views of current benefits and identify the benefits they value most. HBS claims that many companies don’t know which benefits their employees desire or value most. This can create “a gross misalignment” between the benefits your employees actually need and those you offer. It also likely means the benefits you do provide are doing little to reduce turnover, burnout and lost productivity. Regular, ongoing employee surveys are vital to aligning benefit offerings to caregivers’ needs.

Step 4: Add additional benefits that address unmet needs. Your employee surveys also can help you identify any caregiver needs that are going unmet. When you decide to add a new benefit, consider rolling it out to a small test group before deploying it widely. This will help you determine which programs are likely to be well utilized and generate the highest returns on your investment.

Step 5: Monitor utilization rates. Caregiving benefits must be monitored and measured with the same diligence as other more costly benefits, such as health care and retirement benefits, states the HBS report. This is the only way to accurately assess these programs’ impact on retention, productivity and engagement.

Step 6: Assess the impact of benefits relative to expectations and in the eyes of employees. Only you and your employees can determine whether a program is worth your investment. This is why a regular care census, ongoing employee survey, and diligent monitoring are so important. They are the best methods for determining the impact of your programs.

Step 7: Customize care benefits by adding those that are meaningful to employees. The HBS report polled hundreds of employees on which caregiving benefits they currently use and which they anticipate using in the future. Caregiving provider referral services, on-site or near-site child care and elder care, and counseling services were all near the top of the lists. Again, surveying employees is paramount ensuring that your benefits remain relevant and deliver a steady ROI.

Follow these seven steps and you’ll not only create a more care-friendly culture but, as HBS notes, you will also “build a new source of competitive advantage” by attracting and retaining key talent.

If you’d like to learn more about caregiving-related benefits or other programs designed to help you employees better integrate their work and personal responsibilities, contact us here or call us at (833) 282-3366.


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.


What Is a Care Management Benefit and Why Does Your Company Need It?

Understanding Senior Care Management

Did you know that more than 1 in 6 working Americans report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend? Or that caregivers working at least 15 hours per week indicated that this assistance significantly affected their work? And, of those that identified as full-time workers acting as caregivers, they reported missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year, which amounts to 126 million missed workdays each year?

When you consider that the cost of lost productivity due to caregiving to U.S. businesses is $17.1 to $33 billion annually, it’s clear that the business case for providing support to this population leads to positive results for both employers and employees.

That’s why a comprehensive Senior Care Management program can be monumentally helpful to caregivers. This employee benefit can assist with understanding an aging loved one’s care needs, identifying resources available and also assist with implementing care recommendations, improving employee productivity and retention.

Here are some best in class components of a comprehensive Senior Care Management employee benefit program.

In-Person Assessment
It is common for people to want to stay in their home and be as independent as possible for as long as possible. Aging and disabilities can make staying in an individual’s home challenging, and sometimes dangerous. A care manager can meet with the individual in their home, along with family members, to discuss current health problems and disabilities. The care manager can also evaluate the home to determine how to make it better equipped to meet the individual’s care needs. Recommendations such as removing scatter rugs and adding grab bars in the shower may help someone who is prone to falls decrease their chances of future falls. In some cases, an in-home assessment might make it clear that staying in the home might not be the best option. A care manger can help to educate and discuss other options available to help seniors live a comfortable life in an environment that best suits their needs.

Senior Care Management

Post-Hospitalization Assessment
It can be overwhelming to try to determine what kind of care someone will need after a hospital stay or short term rehab stay. A lot of questions can be answered by the doctor, nurses and social workers within the hospital or facility. It is also sometimes helpful to have an extra professional guide. The care manager can evaluate the home to determine if any modifications would be helpful in making it safe and assist in coordinating the care needed upon returning home.

Senior Care Management

Post Assessment Support
After the expert recommendations have been delivered, now what? A fully comprehensive care management program offers 24/7 support from specialists to help implement the care chosen. Specialists can walk through the care plan, answer additional questions, address any caregiving concerns, provide a sympathetic ear and so much more. Through end-to-end telephonic support, your employees will be able to make educated decisions and confidently put a care plan in place that will provide the best care possible for their loved one’s specific needs.

Post Assessment Support

These are just a few examples of how a fully comprehensive Senior Care Management program can be a great help when caring for an older loved one or a loved one with disabilities, relieving stress and saving time and money. A service like this is not only helpful and educational, but will also give your employees peace of mind and confidence as they choose the right care.

For more information about Senior Care Management servicescontact us here or call us at (866) 675-3751.