Now is the time for employers to invest in caregiver benefits

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As the coronavirus pandemic impacts the economy, companies are searching for ways to reduce costs. While making greater investments in employee benefits may not be a high priority, now is the time for employers to invest in one specific benefit: caregiving.

Caregiver responsibilities can have a significant impact on employee mental health, and over 80% of employees say caregiving has affected their productivity at work, according to a Harvard Business Review survey. In addition, caregiver related absenteeism costs companies about $5.1 billion each year and can increase a company’s healthcare costs, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a caregiver resource group. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, this pressure on employees will only increase as they return to work and struggle to find adequate care.

“Pre-COVID-19, one out of five employees is supporting an aging loved one and that number is only going to grow, ” says Dave Jacobs, co-CEO of Homethrive, a caregiver services and benefits provider. “It's a significant productivity issue that employers try to address, but also there's a well-being mental health aspect that [employers] are really trying to help with.”

Jacobs shared his thoughts on why employers should be making greater investments in caregiver benefits in a one-on-one interview.

What makes now a good time for employers to invest in caregiver benefits?
If employers start to think about the next phase of the COVID-19 environment, they can actually get a meaningful return on that investment, which they will need. Employers haven’t been hiring at the previous level and some have shrunk their ranks. So they need to enable their employees to be more productive than before. The return on investment from a productivity standpoint is pretty compelling and I think companies are starting to recognize that.

The other part is really taking care of the well-being of their employees. It is becoming more important [as employers] think about the longer term.

The data suggests that seven out of 10 employees hide their caregiving responsibilities— it’s not something that they are talking about. We actually find an increasing number of employers recognize there is a need out there, through their own experience, and the experience of certain colleagues. A lot of times the senior HR executives and benefits executives are at an age where they have gone through this themselves to some degree.

How will caregiver benefits evolve as the return to work phase gets underway?
There’s a change afoot that employers are viewing this as a benefit akin to childcare and how that's become a staple benefit of almost every organization. Caregiver benefits were going that way previously and we think it's going to increase just [because] of all the demographics and the fact that the overwhelming majority, 87% of people, want to age at home. That puts more pressure and guilt on the employees.

There aren't as many benefits for people whose kids are in college or post college, and those people oftentimes are the ones that are living longer, they want to work longer, but they need different benefits than the younger parts of the workforce. Caregiving benefits are one of the most important benefits that they're looking for.

How will the pandemic impact the relationship between employers and employees?
I think there’s going to be a reset on the way people work, which inherently intertwines people's professional and personal lives. An increasing number of companies will give flexibility or require that employees work from home to reduce real estate costs. As a result, I think companies are going to start having to look more at the issues surrounding the whole person if they want to be an employer of choice.

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