2021 Employee Caregiving Survey: The Case for Supporting Employee Eldercare Caregivers

If not now when? The pressures on today’s workforce have never been greater. Healthcare, finances, work, children, aging loved ones; it is all a balancing act. If just one piece of that intricate puzzle falls out of place, things can go poorly.

We've seen this; we know this.  We hear about it on the news. We hear our friends and colleagues tell stories. We see women, and men, leave the workforce much earlier than expected because the precarious juggling act is too much. 

What kind of impact does caring for an aging loved one have on working adults? Are employers supportive? Do employees get the help they need? We asked these questions in the Homethrive 2021 Employee Caregiving Survey to find the answers.

Survey at a Glance

The Homethrive 2021 Employee Caregiving Survey was conducted  via a third-party survey provider from June 28 - July 21, 2021. Two hundred adults in the U.S., who work outside the home while also providing support for an aging loved one, were surveyed about how those caregiving responsibilities impact their employment. Respondents were from a variety of companies and industries, make at least $50,000 per year, and currently support at least one aging loved one. The survey pool was 64% female and 36% male.

  • 43% of respondents are distracted, worried, or focused on caregiving — and not their jobs — 5 or more hours per week, while 20% are distracted at work more than 9 hours per week
  • More than half of respondents indicated their supervisors were not as supportive as they needed them to be about their outside-of-work caregiving responsibilities
  • One third of respondents said that because of their caregiving responsibilities outside of work, their supervisor had noticed a change in their work habits either because it was impacting their job performance or because they were noticeably under stress 
  • Despite the growing need for employee benefits that support caregivers, 79% of employers are not yet offering them or are not communicating about such benefits
  • The vast majority (84%) of respondents were receptive to the idea of their employer offering a benefit that provided them with resources, guidance, or support for caregiving

The Results

The survey results confirmed that managing life and career is a delicate balancing act with many challenges. Providing support or care for aging loved ones is stressful and distracting at work, yet employers are not widely aware of or focused on how that outside responsibility is impacting their workforce and workforce performance. Despite the growing need for employee benefits that support caregivers, the majority of employers still do not offer them, or communicate about such benefits. Conclusion: American employers may be missing the boat because employees are distracted from their jobs because of caregiving responsibilities and the majority would welcome an employee benefit that provides resources, guidance, and support. 

Supporting aging loved ones is a multi-year, long-term commitment.

As people age, they increasingly rely on their adult children to run errands, coordinate services, research products, answer questions, lend financial and emotional support, and more.

We know from our experiences that this shift to greater dependence on adult children doesn't happen overnight and can last for many years. Survey respondents agreed: 45% have been providing this type of  support for an aging loved one for more than three years

How long have you been supporting your aging loved one?

how long supporting

 

Supporting aging loved ones distracts employees. 

Often, even when loved ones are providing this kind of much needed support, they don't necessarily think of themselves as caregivers, yet they do experience stress, grief, and other difficult emotions. Providing this kind of support while working full time, raising a family and/or other responsibilities, can take a toll. 

The survey found 43% of respondents are distracted, worried, or focused on caregiving, and not their jobs, five or more hours per week, while 20% are distracted at work more than 9 hours per week. 

How many hours per week, during your work hours, are you distracted, worried or focused on things related to your support of your aging loved one?

hours per week distracted at work

 

Supporting aging loved ones while working can negatively impact performance. 

Distraction at work is challenging enough and the addition of caregiving responsibilities only compounds worry and stress. One third of respondents said that because of their caregiving responsibilities outside of work, their supervisor had noticed a change either because it was impacting their performance or because they were noticeably under stress. 

Just over half of caregivers said that their supervisors were either "not" or only "somewhat understanding" of their caregiving responsibilities.

How did your supervisor learn of your responsibilities to your aging loved one?

how supervisor learned

 

 

How understanding is your supervisor of that commitment to supporting your aging loved one?

understanding supervisor

 

There is a disconnect between supply of and demand for caregiving benefits.

Despite the growing need for employee benefits that support caregivers, the majority of employers are either not offering them nor communicating about such benefits. The survey found that 79% of respondents did not have access to any benefits to support elderly caregiving responsibilities.

However, the vast majority of survey respondents (84%) were receptive to the idea of their employer offering such a benefit.

If your employer were to offer such a benefit, would you take advantage of it?

take advantage of benefits

 

Does your employer offer any kind of benefit that supports employees such as yourself with responsibilities to an aging loved one?

employer offer benefit

 

The Internet isn't helping.

Have you ever experienced the "Google rabbit hole?" That is what happens when caregivers try to sort through all of the resources freely available online. It is difficult to sift through it all and decipher what is relevant or what sources are trustworthy. 

Only 27% of those surveyed said that there were the “right amount of resources” freely available online to help those caring for aging loved ones.

 

What do you think of the resources freely available online to help those who support aging loved ones?

resources available

 

Employers aren't asking about the need.

Even with the growing number of employee caregivers, a Harvard Business School Report noted "Many employers remain strangely unaware of the magnitude and impact of the changing demographics of care and their economic consequences. Surveys of U.S. employer and employee attitudes about caregiving reveal that there is a gross misalignment between what companies currently provide and what employees need." 

The Homethrive 2021 Employee Caregiving Survey supports these findings as Nearly 40% of respondents said that their supervisor is not aware of their caregiving responsibilities outside of work or weren't sure if their supervisor was aware. This isn't surprising when we take into account that 84% of respondents have not been surveyed by their employer to find out what kind of outside caregiving responsibilities they have.

 

Has your employer ever surveyed you to find out what kind of outside caregiving responsibilities you have?

every been surveyed

 

Is your immediate supervisor aware of your responsibilities supporting your aging loved one?

immediate supervisor aware

 

Conclusion

The U.S. is amid a hidden caregiver crisis that impacts companies and employees alike. According to an AARP study and Harvard Business School report, today, an estimated 53 million adults in the United States, more than one in five Americans (21.3 percent), are caregivers, yet employers remain unaware of — or are not focused on — how that outside responsibility can impact their workforce and their employees’ performance. Without adequate caregiving support for employees, companies incur millions of dollars of hidden costs through employee mental health issues, turnover, and substantial productivity costs such as absenteeism and presenteeism.

There is a significant misalignment between what employees need and what companies provide in terms of caregiving support, borne out by our Homethrive survey. Unless companies better comprehend how to support the needs of caregivers in the U.S., those economic impacts will continue to add up.

We know most American employers do care about their employees, but sadly, they are missing the boat. As responses to our Homethrive survey showed, employees are distracted from their jobs because of caregiving responsibilities and the majority would welcome an employee benefit that provides resources, guidance, and support.

Companies that want to support and keep good employees must better understand their employees’ caregiving responsibilities and provide benefits that support them. When considering the kind of portfolio of benefits that are “must haves” to retain a talented workforce, choosing the right caregiver benefit should be near the top of the list—right up there with excellent healthcare coverage.

Leading companies must recognize the impact caregiving has on their employees’ wellbeing and their company’s bottom line. Any caregiving benefit offered should meet two overarching goals: 1) help older adults live healthier and independently at home for as long as possible; and 2) reduce the work, worry, and stress that family members (unpaid caregivers) face while trying to successfully balance their career with their family obligations.