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The Untold Emotional and Financial Toll That Home Caregiving Is Having on the Workforce

Research shows the impact that at-home care is having on employees and businesses.

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A research study by Grayce, which I co-founded and serve as CEO, and Ipsos reveals that 76% of the employed respondents said they have provided unpaid help to a spouse, partner, parent, adult child, or another loved one over the age of 18 within the past year. This includes support for recipients who have long-term physical conditions, life-threatening or chronic diseases, mental health issues, or memory problems (such as Alzheimer’s or dementia).

Tom Merton | Getty Images

While juggling career and general family responsibilities is always demanding for your team members, it’s more expensive, exhausting, and emotionally debilitating when those responsibilities include the delivery of sustained caregiving for someone in need.  It’s at that point that the difficulties of your caregiving team members can affect the performance of your entire organization.

Here are five ways that unpaid caregiving by your employees and executives can have a negative impact on your company:

Your caregiving employees are widening a DEI issue. 

    It would be erroneous to assume that employees who are caregiving for vulnerable loved ones - from physical tasks to legal/financial/medical/social/functional commitments - only affects your female and middle-aged employees.  The truth is that over 60% of new caregivers are millennials and Gen Z’s and 40% are men. 

    Caregiving employees are at all levels in your organization.  Failing to recognize the diversity of their challenges and experiences widens inequality gaps in your talent pipeline, especially for under-represented groups.

    Your caregiving employees are distracted.

      As per a research study by AARP, full-time employees who are also caregivers say that their on-the-job productivity is diminished by their caregiving, and over half say that they frequently need to go into work late, leave early, or take time off to provide care.

      Related: 5 Steps to Creating a Workplace Focused on Mental Wellness

      The reduction in your employees’ ability to focus, thrive, and produce makes them tense, irritable, and fearful of being laid off.  It also impacts their co-workers, who are relying on them to complete essential projects that are under their jurisdiction.

      Your caregiving employees are frustrated and burning out.

        60% of full-time employees believe that caregiving hinders their career development (including losing out on opportunities at work), and 23% report that caregiving has made their health worse.  Concern about this instability is understandable:  “how,” they may be thinking, “can I move forward if my attention, time, and energy are constantly being diverted with caregiving?”  

        The feeling of being stuck, of having no control over your circumstances, and of being torn between career advancement and looking after a vulnerable loved one breeds anxiety, resentment, and feelings of helplessness - none of which are useful to your caregiving team members or to their fellow employees.

        Your caregiving employees may be very close to quitting their jobs.

        Without guidance or direction of how to balance their caregiving commitments and their work duties, one-third of caregivers cite adult care as a factor for leaving their jobs.

        As stable and profitable as your organization may be, the prospect of your employee roster being hollowed out because of the pressures of caring for a loved one must be immediately addressed.

        Your caregiving employees are losing money.

          On average, caregivers spend a quarter of their annual income on caregiving expenses.  In fact, many have stopped saving or have taken on debt to financially support their loved ones  - negating the impact of financial benefit programs like 401Ks or FSAs. Caregiving employees are reducing their work hours, taking unpaid family leave, or switching jobs entirely in order to find more flexible schedules and locationsThe tandem of reduced income with a sustained surge in caregiving costs presents a no win predicament with huge enduring losses for your caregiving team members.

          While the chronic effects of employee caregiving can be detrimental to your company’s success (especially as the pandemic continues), such drawbacks are avoidable:  75 percent of workers who exit their companies because of family caregiving report that they would have stayed on the job if they had access to better support from their employers.

          Related: 8 Ways to Build a Self-Care Routine You Can Feel Good About

          Survey data confirm that employee morale/engagement increases and stress diminishes when support for caregivers is made available from an employer.  This can include offering leave policies, allowing for work schedule or location flexibility, and providing detailed caregiving guidance in such areas as housing options, legal plans, financial matters, Medicaid navigation, and medical care.  We also found that employees are currently re-evaluating where they want to take their careers based on whether such caregiving support is offered by a prospective employer. 

          To avoid a disruption in profits, innovation, and talent pipelines, savvy companies of all sizes must prioritize their caregiving employees’ long-term well-being.  To achieve this, they must deliver comprehensive support services that will help their caregiving employees to both navigate their family roles and thrive in their careers.