Consequences of a Graying Workforce (part II)

How is this going to affect the workplace?

Older employee and employer meeting

Boomers make up half of the U.S. active civilian labor force.  At the end of the 20th century, over 3.3 million Boomers were providing care to a relative or friend who lived at least one hour away.  This number has only increased with the decades.  Eighty percent of all care received by older adults is provided by friends or family.  And about one out of every five working American is balancing work and care giving.

Secondly, as the number of Boomers over the age of 65 increases, younger workers will be facing eldercare issues, particularly if there are no siblings to share the responsibility.  Indeed, increasingly complex structures of American families may find workers caring for stepparents and other loved ones in addition to their parents.

Thirdly, as people live longer, healthier lives, they may be more willing and able to continue to contribute to the workforce beyond what has been considered retirement age.  However, this will also increase the likelihood that the employee will become involved in some form of care giving.

How should businesses respond?

Stress on the worker is significant.  Employees who have been surveyed, say they are less productive at work because their focus becomes split.  They have to take time off during the workday — sometimes the entire day — for eldercare matters.  Some have to give up work completely.

This can be costly to businesses.  Replacement expenses for employees who quit due to care giving responsibilities, costs due to absenteeism and partial absenteeism, and expenses accrued due to workday disruptions all add up to a $11.4-$29 billion annually of lost productivity costs to businesses.

Back in the early 1970’s, as more women entered the job market, companies had to adjust to their employees becoming parents. Now it is time for companies to also focus on the care giving needs of their employees. Even with limited resources, there are ways that companies can respond to this need.   Following are some suggestions as to how companies can prepare themselves.

1.    A company can provide information on care giving.  (Most caregivers do not see themselves as caregivers, unless the tasks take up more than 50 percent of their time.)

2.  Allowing employees a venue by which they can explore their needs is another means of assistance.  Survey participants to learn what they expect, need and/or want.

3.   Creating a “How to juggle work and care-giving” guide for employees would allow more control over the circumstances for both the company and the employee.

4.  Companies can invite the experts in by hosting a caregiver fair or they can provide seminars on aging and eldercare.

5.  More importantly, providing flexible elder care policies will greatly help.  Businesses may wish to explore comprehensive benefits that include supportive benefits and supportive flex-time.

6.  Training supervisors to recognize and respond to eldercare issues promptly and effectively can prevent caregiver demands from becoming workplace problems.

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