Employers Design Solutions to Better Support Caregivers in the Workplace
AMERICUS, Ga. — The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers (RCI) today released “Working While Caring: Innovations and Interventions to Support Caregivers in the Workplace,” a vision for the future of work for caregivers. The report is the result of RCI’s Innovation Lab, a yearlong employer pilot dedicated to identifying and scaling solutions for caregivers in the workplace.
Building on their overall Working While Caring initiative, RCI aims to fill critical gaps in the caregiver-employee experience through research, communications, and employer engagement. According to a national Working While Caring survey conducted by RCI in 2021, one in five full-time workers provides care, often at significant personal cost. Sixty percent of caregivers experience work disruption and a third have had to leave a job because of their caregiving responsibilities.
“Creating a work environment that is supportive and inclusive for caregivers not only helps the physical and mental health of the caregivers, but it also improves organizational culture and allows employers to attract and retain top talent,” said RCI Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jennifer Olsen. “With 53 million caregivers nationwide and the ranks of working caregivers continuing to grow, inaction is not an option. The wellbeing of caregivers and the strength of our economy depends on us leading systems-level change to better serve and support caregivers at work, at home, and in our communities.”
The Innovation Lab was run in partnership with the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Tufts University.
“Research finds that most family caregivers are employed and value both working and caregiving It also finds that most employee caregivers experience physical, mental, and/or financial strain, often upending the quality of their lives and threatening their effectiveness as caregivers. There is an urgent need for more research and policy development to identify interventions that reduce the human and economic costs of working while caring” said Dr. Debra Lerner of the Tufts Medical Center Program on Health, Work and Productivity and Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “I look forward to working collaboratively with RCI to help employers develop practical, effective solutions for working caregivers.”
The inaugural cohort of the Innovation Lab engaged five small- to mid-sized employers in southeast Michigan, with an emphasis on workplaces where flexibility in work times or location is largely unrealistic. By focusing on hourly, on-site workers, the initiative is particularly important for elevating the needs of and increasing equity for caregivers of color. For employers of all sizes, this kind of caregiver support initiative is relevant to organizational DEI policies and efforts to support employee mental health.
“This report is great step forward in making a stronger case for employers to better support their employee caregivers, while also providing the potential pathways and interventions to do so,” said Amber Slichta, VP of Programs and Learning at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, a grantmaking organization operating in Southeast Michigan and Western New York that provided grant support for the study. “We applaud all the employers who took part in the inaugural Innovation Lab and hope that not only they, but many other employers, see the tremendous value it can bring to an organization’s culture by valuing, listening and working together with employees who are caregivers and their families.”
As part of the lab, representatives from Alternatives for Girls, Carhartt, Gesher Human Services, Volunteers of America Michigan, and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses reviewed the latest research and reports on employer best practices and conducted an environmental scan of available home and community-based services.
“Each caregiving situation is unique, and finding the right balance often involves a combination of support from employer, understanding from coworkers, and resources and support systems,” said Terri O’Rourke, benefits specialist at Carhartt. “We are continuing our journey for needed caregiving support that can aid our valuable associates and help us attract and retain associates with caregiving benefits.”
After reviewing research, lab members reached a consensus on how best to create a more caregiver-friendly workplace. Their recommendations for employers to consider include:
- Audit your workforce to gain clarity on the number of and demands on caregivers in your workplace
- Provide education and increase awareness on employee benefits, including home care, long-term care, and other community-based services
- Maximize access to and use of paid leave
- Provide access to counseling services and mental health providers with caregiving expertise
- Consider utilizing a concierge caregiver support service or navigation resources to help employees understand and access available resources, training, and programs
- Establish an employee caregiving interest group to serve as a resource to management and other employees
With the Working While Caring report in hand, the Innovation Lab cohort will now enter a second phase where they will design, implement, and evaluate a Navigator Program. This program will be shared across their organizations and will provide direct, personal support to caregivers as they navigate a complex web of healthcare, home- and community-based services, and employer benefits.
“Gesher Human Services joined the Innovation Lab to assist our staff and the individuals and families that we serve in identifying promising approaches to supporting caregivers in balancing caregiving, work, and wellness. The experience has provided us with a roadmap for piloting some approaches to supporting our team and community that we had not considered before,” said James Willis, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Visit RCI’s website to read and download “Working While Caring: Innovations and Interventions to Support Caregivers in the Workplace.” To learn more about RCI’s advocacy platform and its efforts to create systems-level change for caregivers, visit www.rosalynncarter.org.