A Balancing Act: Supporting Parents & Caregivers
Navigating the ever-evolving landscape of work and life continues to be a significant challenge for many. The return of the school year, along with its whirlwind of parent-teacher conferences, extracurricular activities, and other commitments underscores the need for balanced approaches to support employees who are parents. Additionally, a substantial portion of the workforce dedicates significant time to caring for ailing or elderly family members. An AARP report shows that nearly 1 in 5 U.S. workers are caregivers and they spend, on average, 24 hours per week providing care.
With mounting family obligations, some employees are struggling to meet the demands of their jobs while also providing quality care and support to their families. Here are some of the ways employers can support working parents and employees who have caregiving responsibilities.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexibility is perhaps one of the most desired benefits for caregivers. Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, flex time, a compressed workweek, and job sharing allow employees to work around the needs of those they’re caring for. Essentially, flexibility can help parents and caregivers attend important doctor’s appointments, drop off and pick up kids from school or daycare, and attend parent-teacher conferences and other school-related activities.
Childcare & Caregiver Assistance
Recognizing the value of providing a safety net for employees, some employers are providing back-up care during emergencies or access to on-site or nearby daycare facilities. Additionally, caregiving resources, including social programs that help employees support loved ones or navigate the healthcare and legal aspects of eldercare are becoming more common.
Alleviating the Financial Strain
An AARP report revealed that 62% of caregivers experience high financial strain and are unable to save, while 56% said they had taken on more debt. Employers can provide caregivers with various forms of financial support, such as a wellness account that covers childcare and eldercare. Dependent care benefits, which allow employees to withhold pre-tax income from their paycheck to help pay for the care of a child, spouse, or other dependent adult who lives in their household, can also help defray the cost of providing care. Additionally, employers are in the position to provide much-needed financial wellness benefits that can help employees budget, save, set specific financial goals, and make better financial decisions.
Fostering Emotional Well-being
Caregivers often face increased levels of stress and burnout. Employers can assist by providing access to mental health resources, counseling services, and support groups that can help them manage stress, develop coping mechanisms, and build resilience. Workshops, webinars, and resources emphasizing mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and self-care routines can significantly improve caregivers' well-being. By offering these resources, employers acknowledge the emotional toll caregiving can take on their workforce.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
ERGs are voluntary employee-led cohorts made up of employees with common interests, stages of life, or demographics. ERGs can offer working parents and caregivers a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and providing mutual support. HR and business leaders should empower caregivers with a safe space to build community and belonging within the workplace by fostering ERGs and encouraging their employees to participate.
Evolution of Family-Friendly Benefits
Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting their employees through the emotional and financial challenges of family-building. Fertility benefits, adoption assistance, and expanded parental leave are all ways to support employees who are looking to expand their family. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the number of organizations offering such benefits has grown steadily over the past five years and LGBTQ and single employees are increasingly eligible.
The conversation around work-life balance, caregiving, and family support continues to evolve, reflecting the changing dynamics of the modern workforce. Approaching the challenge from a comprehensive standpoint and providing tailored assistance for working parents and caregivers underscores a company’s dedication to the well-being of their people, both in and outside of work.