A crisis is brewing in workplaces across the country, but many employers are unaware that it’s happening.
A recent study by Harvard Business School researchers revealed that the United States is experiencing a major caregiving calamity. Many employees are responsible for caring for elders in their lives, but there are few policies in place to help employees manage this endeavor.
75 percent of those surveyed said that they currently have care-taking responsibilities in their personal lives, and 80 percent of those with catering responsibilities reported that those responsibilities hindered their ability to perform their duties at work to their fullest potential. Balancing responsibilities at work and at home became so strenuous for some that 32 percent of workers reported that they had left their jobs because their responsibilities were too much.
Meanwhile, only 24 percent of employers indicated that they believed caregiving responsibilities interfered with the performance of their employees. This oversight has led to companies losing good employees who need to abandon their careers in order to focus on their familial responsibilities.
Ensuring that policies are in place to deter women from leaving the workforce to care for aging family members is extremely important. Solving the caregiving crisis will become even more crucial as the population continues to grow. The Census Bureau predicts that in 2030, there will be 72 people who are either too young or too old to participate in the workforce for every 100 people who are 18 to 64 years old. This suggests that the problem will exacerbate if it is not adequately addressed.
One fundamental solution to this problem is companies promoting open communication between supervisors and subordinates. Since so few managers are aware of the care-giving issues that employees are facing, they are unable to help.
One more concrete way for employers to assist caregivers is providing them with flexible work schedules. If they are able to come into the workplace using an individualized schedule or work remotely during certain periods, care-taking employees would more effectively balance their personal and professional lives.
Providing elder care subsidies is another way to help employees manage care-taking responsibilities. This one benefit can go along way, though the report noted that only 10 percent of employers surveyed provided it.
It is imperative to acknowledge that as much as we may try to distance personal lives from work lives, they do impact one another. Companies need to be implementing policies and systems that allow employees to balance the two.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.