Employees who become caregivers are often thrust into the role with very little preparation, unaware of the challenges that lay ahead or the resources they could use to meet them. In the context of caregiving, employees not only need to learn how to access information that will benefit their aging relative, they also might need to locate knowledge relevant to their own personal well-being. And they need to learn what works best for their situation.
Employers are ideally situated to transmit information on a broad array of resources, which can enhance employee capacities to manage challenges while remaining committed to their work. Example approaches in this model include: "lunch and learns," educational handouts, webinars, training for supervisors focused on how to support employees with caregiving responsibilities, affinity groups for caregivers, work based support groups, referral to expertise from local aging agencies, Employee Assistance programs, and WorkLife programs. Keep in mind that this model complements the “financial resources,” model as many information and support policies (e.g., EAPs) are operated through external vendors.
1. Employers can be ideally situated to transmit information, not only concerning work processes, but also on a broad array of resources. Among the most common policies used to transmit information and support, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help maximize employee engagement by identifying, preventing, and resolving issues that can impinge on workplace effectiveness.
2. Many elements of the information and support model can be implemented quickly and inexpensively. Organizations can develop a number of low-cost programs and options internally, such as resource lists, lunch and learns, handouts, webinars, etc.
3. Employers are breaking new ground within the information and support models. Case studies can help you apply this model to your organization. See “What are others doing” for case studies.
Provision of Information and supports:
The means by which information and support are provided can vary, but all of the strategies involve expanding your employees’ knowledge relating to current or future elder-caregiving responsibilities. Here are some examples, with data from the 2015 Talent Management Study indicating how commonly these practices are implemented.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are intended to maximize employee engagement by identifying, preventing, and resolving issues that can impinge on workplace effectiveness. They can be a valuable resource for employees who have difficulty managing the stresses that can result from caregiving. While some employers have developed their own internal EAP program, most commonly operate under contract with vendors that might:
o Provide consultation and training to leadership to improve employee effectiveness
o Promote availability of services to employees and their families
o Provide means for employees to engage in confidential discussions concerning issues that might relate to performance
o Provide guidance to employees on how to address problems related to performance
o Offer referral for diagnosis, assistance, and treatment
o Establish relationships between employers and service providers
o Offer consultation on ways to encourage access and use of health-related resources
o Evaluate effectiveness of assistance on the organization and employees.
Note that EAP programs encompass many other concerns related to physical and psychological wellbeing beyond the issue of caregiving, but EAP vendors can be hired to consult on concerns specific to an employer’s unique interests and needs. If your organization does not already have its own EAP, or a relationship with an EAP provider, check out the information provided by the Employee Assistance Professional Association (EAPA), including their EAP Buyers Guide.
In-House Information and supports offer means to identify caregiving resources outside of a formal EAP program. For example, an employer may be able to generate and provide lists of eldercare services. Additionally employers can structure “lunch and learn” sessions with guest speakers and brown-bag encounters among employees who share similar interests and concerns. A starting point in following this approach is to identify specific types of information that employees might need and devote staff time to develop these resources (which will need to be periodically updated). Often times simply providing employees with “a place to start” can be an effective way to lead them to the paths that best address their needs. This approach of developing internal resources is a common one – 39% of employers offer seminars on family issues while 61% provide information about elder care services to their employees.
Breaking New Ground
Caregiving is such a crucial issue for today’s workforce that many employers are breaking new ground in this area. Some policies include:
- eldercare consultations
- employee resource groups
- referrals to services and programs
Your company may have many policies (such as extended leaves or financial counseling) that can help support employees with caregiving responsibilities, but not all employees with caregiving responsibilities may know about or use them. By drawing on elements from the information and support model, companies can repackage and communicate policies they already have in place, thus altering employees to fact that they exist. Hence, it is common for companies to combine information and support policies with financial policies, time policies, or both. For instance, Johns Hopkins University combines information and support policies (i.e., individual consultants, workshops, and referrals through internal program) with financial policies (i.e., back-up care through an external provider). See “What are others doing” for more information.