As the population around the world ages, what it means to be a caregiver is changing as well. No longer confined to parents alone, the term now encompasses millennials and Gen Xers who have become caregivers for their parents, often while caring for their own children. Squeezed from both sides, caregivers may experience depression and anxiety, undermining their overall well-being and ability to function productively at work.
Recognizing these issues--exacerbated by the pandemic--employers have stepped up to offer needed family benefits. Ninety-four percent of large employers said they are actively working with vendors to create support programs for employees with parental and caregiving responsibilities. In particular, parents have noted that remote or hybrid work, as well as childcare support, have made juggling work and family responsibilities easier.
The workplace itself has evolved with the emerging needs of employees. Many employers have created Parents Employee Resource Groups and other opportunities for parents to connect with each other. Seventy-nine percent of new parents value these resource groups, while almost half have benefited from opportunities to share suggestions and struggles with other new parents.1
Effective programs for caregivers for elders, adult dependents and children with disabilities, however, are still a work in progress—a reality recognized by employers. Only one in four employers (27%) in 2021 believe they have programs and policies in place to effectively support employees with caregiving responsibilities, a decrease from two in five in 2020.2
As employers strive to meet the needs of caregivers, they, too, recognize the impact that this new role has on their work life. More than 80% of employees with caregiving responsibilities said it affected their productivity,3 and 33% reported that these responsibilities have led to setbacks in their career or work goals.4
Caregiving, however, does more than affect career paths; it also has a significant impact on overall health and well-being. Caregivers are twice as likely to develop chronic illness. Furthermore, 49% experience exhaustion and 60% are overwhelmed by financial stress.5,6,7 Not surprisingly, caregiving also takes a toll on mental health, with 70% of caregivers reporting adverse mental health symptoms; 35% reported anxiety or depression and 32% reported passive or serious suicidal thoughts. The effects are even worse for those caring for people under and over 18, with 52% reporting serious suicidal thoughts, 12 times the rate of nonparents/ noncaregivers.7
Employers are working to put into place programs to address these concerns. For example, many offer online therapy support and access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Other benefits include caregiver leave, flexible work hours and digital tools to help caregivers carry out their responsibilities.
These benefits are a good start, but employers recognize that they have barely scratched the surface in addressing the needs of caregivers. For many, next steps will include a cultural change that addresses the stigma of caregiving and encourages employees to understand and utilize available benefits.
For a more in depth look at employees from welcoming a child to caring for an elder, check out The Family Benefits Bundle.
Read and share our additional “Family Bundle” related blog posts on Family Benefits and Family Building:
- 1 | Ovia Health. The future of family friendly benefits. 2021.
- 2 | Willis Towers Watson. 2021 emerging from the pandemic survey. February 24, 2021. https://www.willistowerswatson.com/ en-US/Insights/2021/02/2021-emerging-from-the-pandemic-survey. Accessed August 9, 2021.
- 3 | Fuller JB, Raman M. The caring company. Harvard Business School. January 27, 2019. https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/The_Caring_Company.pdf. Accessed August 5, 2021.
- 4 | Fidelity Investments. 2021 American caregivers study. 2021. https://s2.q4cdn.com/997146844/files/doc_news/2021/06/08/ Fidelity-Caregivers-Study-Fact-Sheet-2021_final.pdf. Accessed August 9, 2021.
- 5 | Ho A, Collins SR, Davis K, Doty MM. A look at working-age caregivers' roles, health concerns, and need for support. Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief. 2005 Aug;(854):1-12.
- 6 | Unum. Adult caregiving: Generational considerations for America’s workforce. June 2018. https://www.unum.com/caringreport. Accessed August 6, 2021.
- 7 | 7. Fidelity Investments. Fidelity® study: More than three-quarters of caregivers report financial, social, mental or professional setbacks. May 27, 2021. https://newsroom. fidelity.com/press-releases/news-details/2021/Fidelity-Study-More-Than-Three-Quarters-of-Caregivers-Report-Financial-Social-Mental-or-Professional-Setbacks/default.aspx. Acessed August 5, 2021.