Caregiving

Planning for Caregiving – How Employers Can Help

We must plan for caregiving instead of waiting for the medical crisis. Lack of planning is sadly the typical scenario for the vast majority of working families with aging relatives. Too many barriers exist when it comes to planning for caregiving. Such barriers include lack of knowledge, time, and procrastination. Ultimately, lack of preparation inevitably results in premature exit from the workforce. This is a costly scenario for the employee as well as the employer.

As part of a comprehensive benefits plan, employers can help educate future caregiver employees as to how to initiate the conversation and set up planning. Such a setup may vastly change the landscape around employees’ ability to remain in the workplace as they take on a caregiving role. The point of this article, therefore, is a wake-up call to the employer as well as the future caregiver employee.

Preparation for Caregiving

It is wonderful to think that people today have a good chance of living well beyond their 70s. However, with rising age comes increasing disabilities (1), and thus, the need for supportive care. In my profession as an eldercare consultant, I have come to realize that the vast majority of people take on caregiving responsibilities with little or no preparation; this is indeed the typical scenario for caregivers (2).

Unfortunately, it is human nature to wait till the last moment before we take action, especially with issues that are difficult to solve. In the caregiving world, people often do not learn about the many resources and services available until after the medical crisis occurs. Why do we procrastinate when it comes to planning for caregiving? There are many reasons: lack of time in our busy working lives, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, and stressful family dynamics. However, lack of preparation around caregiving can lead to wide-ranging negative outcomes for the caregiver (3\4).

Planning for the Future of Caregiving

We plan our financial future; so why don’t we plan for caregiving? This should be a no-brainer, as lack of preparation can have a negative impact on so many aspects of our lives including deteriorating mental and physical health, loss of social connections, and reduced or lost income. For example, caregivers are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, irritability, hopelessness, and depression, as well as have coexisting substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease (5/6). Furthermore, studies have shown that caregivers (age 50+) who leave the workforce to care for a parent lose, on average, nearly $304,000 in wages and benefits over their lifetime, and are at increased risk of living in poverty in their own old age (7).

Programmatic Solutions in the Workplace

The rationale for why we should plan for caregiving is clear. Yet, we don’t. I would argue that much of the fault lies in that structurally our society is not set up to support proactive caregiving. A key area where programmatic solutions could be developed exists within the workplace. The workplace employs many people who fall into the sandwich generation; that is, those sandwiched between children and aging parents. Even though many mid-size to larger companies provide eldercare services as part of their Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs), these do not promote proactive planning for caregiving.

EAPs cater to the employee who is in crisis mode. Instead, workplaces should do more to promote proactive planning for caregiving when the employee is not under duress. This could be done through educational ‘lunch and learns’ provided to employees where they may gain knowledge about warning signs of when it is time to step in, learn ways to initiate the conversation, and how to find resources in their community. Educating the sandwich generation workforce is a win-win scenario for the employee as well as the employer by diminishing disruption in the workplace because employees will be much more prepared for caregiving. 

Final Thoughts

The workplace captures a huge audience of future caregivers. This is a vital consideration as we are facing a looming shortage of caregivers as the large baby boomer cohort ages (8). We must start to implement structural changes within our society that can support caregiving in the same way that daycare was implemented to support working mothers! The programmatic solutions described in this article are relatively inexpensive and empower the family to make decisions that may better meet the wishes and needs of the care recipient. Ultimately, by planning for caregiving we may better promote the autonomy and the dignity of our loved ones.

1 Aubrecht, K., Kelly, C. & Rice, C. (2020). The aging-disability nexus. University of British Columbia Press.
2 Alvariza, A., Häger-Tibell, L., Holm, M. et al. Increasing preparedness for caregiving and death in family caregivers of patients with severe illness who are cared for at home – study protocol for a web-based intervention. BMC Palliat Care 19, 33 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-020-0530-6
3 Sung S Park, PhD, Caregivers’ Mental Health and Somatic Symptoms During COVID-19, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 76, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages e235 – e240, https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbaa121
4 Broxson J, Feliciano L. Understanding the Impacts of Caregiver Stress. Prof Case Manag. 2020 Jul/Aug;25(4):213-219. doi: 10.1097/NCM.0000000000000414. PMID: 32453176.
5  Chang, H. Y., Chiou, C. J., & Chen, N. S. (2010). Impact of mental health and caregiver burden on family caregivers’ physical health. Archives of gerontology and geriatrics50(3), 267–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2009.04.006
6 Lena Sandin Wranker, Sölve Elmståhl & Fagerström Cecilia (2021) The Health of Older Family Caregivers – A 6-Year Follow-up, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 64:2, 190-207, DOI: 10.1080/01634372.2020.1843098
7 Feinberg, L & Choula, R. (2012): Understanding the impact of caregiving on work. (AARP Fact Sheet).
8.Feinberg, L.F. & Spillman, B.C. (2019). Shifts in family caregiving – and a growing care gap: Implications for long term services and supports financial reform. Generations: J Am Society on Aging, 43, 1, 73-77.
Employee Happiness

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness

When it comes to the workplace, happiness is key. Studies have shown that happy employees are more productive and efficient. That’s why employers need to do what they can to create a positive work environment. But what does employee happiness mean, exactly?

Here are a few tips for contributing to employee happiness in the workplace.

What Happiness at Work Means to Employees and Employers

Employees may feel satisfied with their job, have a positive work-life balance, or feel like they are part of a supportive team.

It may mean increased productivity, lower absenteeism, or reduced turnover for employers. Regardless of the definition, work happiness is essential for employees and employers.

Studies have proven that happy employees are more engaged and productive. They are also more likely to stay with their company and less likely to take sick days.

Happy employers, however, tend to have lower health care costs and higher profits. They also tend to be more successful in attracting and retaining top talent.

8 Ways to Foster Employee Happiness in the Workplace

You, as the employer, can do a few things to create a happy work environment.

1. Learn More About Your Employees

Getting to know your employees personally can go a long way in making them feel valued. Take the time to learn about their interests, family, and hobbies. Doing so will not only make them feel appreciated, but it will also help you better understand their needs and how to support them.

2. Make Time for Fun

Making time for fun is just as important as working hard. It can be as simple as hosting a happy hour each week or planning activities to build teamwork. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that your employees will enjoy and look forward to.

3. Make Sure Employees Feel Heard

Employees who feel their voices are heard are more likely to be engaged and motivated at work. After all, feeling like you’re a part of the team and that your opinion matters is important to job satisfaction.

Some things you can do to ensure your employees feel heard:

  • Encourage open communication by creating an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up.
  • Make it a point to listen to your employees and take their suggestions and feedback seriously.
  • Let employees know their input is valued and that you’re working to create a happy workplace for everyone.

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance is essential for employee happiness and productivity. Employees who feel like they have a good work-life balance are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to experience burnout.

An example of this is employees being able to take advantage of flex time and set their hours.

5. Celebrate Employee Accomplishments

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and employees are no exception. When employees feel their hard work is being recognized, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to show appreciation for your team members is by giving verbal praise when an employee does a good job. You can do this in a one-on-one conversation, during a team meeting, or even in an email.

Another way to show appreciation is by giving tangible rewards, such as gift cards, paid time off, or tickets to a show or event.

6. Salary Increase

An employee is happiest when they get a salary increase. A raise indicates that they are doing a good job and gives them a financial incentive to continue performing at a high level.

A salary increase can also help attract and retain top talent. If your employees feel they are paid fairly, they are less likely to look for other opportunities. As a result, a salary increase can be a valuable tool for promoting employee happiness in the workplace.

7. Create a Career Pathway

Employees who feel stuck in a dead-end job are less likely to be happy at work. On the other hand, employees who feel they have a clear career path are more likely to be engaged and motivated.

One way to create a career pathway for your employees is by providing opportunities for professional development. Professional development can include anything from paid training courses to tuition reimbursement for advanced degrees.

You can also create a mentorship program that pairs more experienced employees with newer employees. Mentorship programs can help newer employees feel like they have someone to look up to and learn from. It can also help more experienced employees stay engaged in their work.

8. Offer More Benefits

Apart from a salary increase, there are other ways to contribute to employee happiness by offering more benefits.

For example, you could provide a flexible work schedule, telecommuting options, or on-site child care. These benefits can go a long way in promoting employee happiness and retention.

Moreover, you could also offer other benefits, such as health insurance, a retirement savings plan, or paid time off. These benefits may seem like a small perk, but they can make a big difference to employees.

Benefits of a Happy Workplace

  • Productivity – When employees are happy, they are more productive.
  • Retention – Attracting and retaining top talent is essential for any organization, and a happy workplace can help.
  • Engagement – Engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond for their organization.
  • Better customer service – If your employees are happy, they will be more likely to provide better customer service.
  • Improved bottom line – A happy workplace can enhance your organization’s bottom line.

The Takeaway

Employee happiness is essential to the success of any organization. You can do a few key things as an employer to help contribute to employee happiness in the workplace.

It is vital to make sure employees feel heard. Encourage open communication and allow employees to provide feedback. It is also essential to encourage work-life balance.

Make sure employees have the opportunity to take breaks and use their vacation time. Celebrate employee accomplishments and give them growth opportunities.

Finally, offer competitive salaries and benefits. By taking these steps, you can create a happy and productive workplace.