Caregiving: A Challenge for the Employee and the Employer

Caregiving: A Challenge for the Employee and the Employer

A Hope Grows guest blog article by Deb Gray

Owner, Express Employment Professionals, Pittsburgh West

Because of my recent circumstances and my personal commitment to caregiving for my elderly parents, I have been thinking about businesses and the caregiver challenges for quite some time. I have been living the role of caregiver for several years. For almost ten years, I have owned my own business – Express Employment Professionals, where we focus on finding great people great jobs and great employers, great workers. For these reasons, I feel quite comfortable in addressing this workplace challenge.

More than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend. Caregivers working at least 15 hours per week indicated that this assistance significantly affected their work life. [Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.] More than half of employed caregivers work full-time (56%), 16 percent work between 30 and 39 hours, and 25 percent work fewer than 30 hours a week.

Employees – please read with more commitment as an employee who is a caregiver to understand the IMPACT on your employer: These facts are from the Family Caregiver Alliance Publication – IMPACT on Employers

  • “Only 56% of caregivers report that their work supervisor is aware of their caregiving responsibilities [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.” (2015) Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • “Only 53% of employers offer flexible work hours/paid sick days, 32% offer paid sick leave, 23% offer employee assistance programs, and 22% allow telecommuting regardless of employee caregiving burden. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.” (2015) Caregiving in U.S.]
  • “Caregiver absenteeism costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.2 billion in lost productivity.” [Gallup-Healthways. (2011) Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Survey]
  • “Of the 17% of U.S. full-time workers who act as caregivers, they report missing an average of 6.6 workdays per year, which amounts to 126 million missed workdays each year.”
  • “Caregiving has shown to reduce employee work productivity by 18.5% and increase the likelihood of employees leaving the workplace.” [Coughlin, J. (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being: Outcomes Insights in Health Management.]

To those of you with supervisory responsibility – put yourselves in the role of caregiver, because we never know what life will bring us. Please commit to learning about your workforce and their caregiving challenges. The following facts are from the Family Caregiver Alliance Publication – IMPACT on employees:

  • “It is a fact that 70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual roles.”
  • “69% of working caregivers caring for a family member or friend report having to rearrange their work schedule, decrease their hours, or take unpaid leave in order to meet their caregiving responsibilities.” [AARP Public Policy Institute. (2011).]
  • “6 out of 10 (61%) caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving such as cutting back work hours, taking a leave of absence, receiving a warning about performance/attendance, among others.”
  • “49% arrive to their workplace late/leave early/take time off, 15% take a leave of absence, 14% reduce their work hours/take a demotion, 7% receive a warning about performance/attendance, 5% turndown a promotion, 4% choose early retirement, 3% lose job benefits, and 6% give up working entirely.” [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • “Caregivers suffer loss of wages, health insurance and other job benefits, retirement savings or investment, and Social Security benefits.”

Many of us have chosen to take on the caregiver role. Sometimes, it is a conscious choice or a commitment to a loved one or friend, as in my case. Other times it is not a conscious choice but evolves as an illness, or disability and slowly progresses and takes hold of your life unexpectedly. Sometimes, it is a sense of obligation. Whatever the reason, I assure you it is without the intention to hurt our employers, our peers, our co-workers, those we interact with daily and other family members we so love..

To the caregivers reading this – challenge yourself on how you are ‘managing’ your work life. Are you communicating to your supervisor or the business owners? Consider these action items to improve your work situation as a caregiver:

  1. Make it your priority to advise your supervisor or business leader of the facts of your caregiving role.
  2. Review the facts of your company’s paid time off policy and know where you stand. Be honest.
  3. Understand the sick leave policy and do not abuse it.
  4. Manage your work time efficiently and ask for help in implementing creative ideas to meet all goals and standards.
  5. Make suggestions to your supervisor on how your schedule can be modified and not impact the work team or work results negatively.
  6. Keep your word. Communicate better than you ever have before.
  7. Show your value to ensure long-term employment – which is a win-win for you AND your employer.
  8. Do not be afraid to reach out for support. I would encourage you to contact an organization such as Hope Grows.

To those of you living the role of caregiver and supervisor – open your mind and eyes to what is happening. Consider:

  1. The value of each and every employee you guide.
  2. Make it a point to meet (one-on-one discussions); that focus on the whole person – not just the metrics of the position.
  3. Listen to what is not being said.
  4. Be open minded to allow exceptions and creative solutions so employees can contribute for their individual benefit and the team.
  5. Coach for success, versus documenting failure.
  6. Step up and be instrumental in changing company policy, which limits how you can support caregivers in your workplace.

Creative solutions will result in reducing lost productivity, absenteeism, and replacing employees. Collectively we will benefit because, replacing a productive associate is far more difficult than helping same associate with creative solutions to ensure stability for the caregiver and the business.

I challenge both the caregiver and the business owner to think like a caregiver. Caregiver, think like a business owner. And business leaders, if you have the flexibility to be a caregiver and have walked this path, lead with compassion as our workforce population ages. I would also encourage you to consider providing support in the workplace for your caregivers.

As stated in “the older adult population in the U.S. is projected to nearly double in size by 2050 from 48 million to 88 million”; the caregiver in the workplace challenge is only going to increase.

For additional resources on workplace solutions and how to navigate the caregiver/work challenge check out the ReACT Resource Guide:

I will end with this personal note, as the business owner who personally committed to an ever increasing caregiver role for my parents, I did not and do not regret any of the time away from my business. I grew and matured as a leader, my team definitely grew and my parents and family all appreciated my contribution. My Father died peacefully in early March this year after many years of support from me and his loving family. None of us would change how we supported each other.


Deb Gray owns and operates the award-winning Pittsburgh West office of Express Employment Professionals. Under Deb’s dynamic leadership, her team has put thousands of job seekers to work and currently serves 130 working associates and more than 160 businesses in the Pittsburgh Airport Corridor and Beaver County. Deb is an active member of the regional business community and a proud supporter of many local charities and educational institutions.

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