As I shared in my previous post, it’s imperative for forward-thinking workplaces to acknowledge and adapt to their evolving workforce. As the national population ages, their Boomer, Gen X, and now Millenial employees are increasingly juggling work while caring for their aging parents and grandparents.
While many companies have made strides in providing robust accommodations, we all still have a lot of work to do. Here are five simple starting points ALL caring companies should be taking to support their employees.
Over the past few months, I’ve heard several accounts of employees feeling unfairly discriminated against for caring for an aging parent versus their colleagues, who are often recognized and acknowledged for taking maternity/paternity leave. Many of them shared anecdotes of coworkers that had exchanged gifts and had thrown baby showers at the office.
By acknowledging this could similarly be occurring at your organization and doing your part by addressing it, you are normalizing the experiences of those dealing with the reverse (caring for their parents) towards a more equal workplace.
2. Train your managers to understand elder care
This goes beyond merely offering the phone number to your EAP, flex time, or the ability to work from home. Seek out partners who can help inform your managers on dedicated elder care resources, in addition to understanding and communicating your company’s policies and benefits. If your organization doesn’t have funds for training, I can point you to numerous nonprofits or webinars as a starting point (PSS being one of them).
Additionally, introduce opportunities for employees to initiate conversations with one another and their managers about their personal lives because they are far more intermingled nowadays with employees’ professional ones. Providing these opportunities will amplify their productivity and engagement by allowing them to bring their “whole self” to work.
3. Fund and create employee resource groups
Invest more in supporting ERGs: internal communities that provide resources based on ethnicity, gender, and now more frequently, age-related ones. Sponsor speakers that encourage fruitful discussions on topics like elder care, caregiving, and employee wellness. Often, it’s best asking a third-party to facilitate them to ensure employees learn from industry-experts and feel safe participating in them without feeling like they’re being judged.
4. Analyze your elder care benefits or offer them if you don’t
According to a 2017 SHRM Benefits study, only 13% of employers offer elder care referral services and fewer provide anything more comprehensive. While most employers offer EAPs, little evidence exists that demonstrates EAPs are effective in maintaining healthy and productive employees.
This is why the market is seeing a rise in companies offering specialty (i.e. fringe) benefits like childcare, fertility, and pet insurance to name a few. It’s because employees perceive them to be much more valuable and personalized when they have a specific, singular focus.
Put together an official strategy incorporating best practices of maximizing the value of your existing core and fringe benefits. Conduct focus groups for employees that have had these challenges to better understand how you can resolve them moving forward.
5. Start planning a “take your parent to work day”
Enough said. 37M parents participate in the annual “take your kids to work day” in April. Instead of solely budgeting for crayons and coloring books galore, it’s time to split that for November’s epic crosswords and Tai Chi instructors! ;)