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10 Steps for Creating a Work Environment That Supports Caregivers

Companies that want to retain valued workers who are responsible for caring for an elderly parent can use these steps to create a workplace culture that supports them.

April 10, 2007

    1. Evaluate your work culture, human resources, work life/flexibility, wellness, bereavement and diversity strategies. Review existing policies, programs and benefits to see if they can be modified to better address elder care needs. For example, if you have child care benefits, can they be expanded to older or disabled adults? Can a health fair be expanded to include community resources for caregivers and elders?

    2. Check the costs of lost productivity in your organization by using the online elder care calculator created by MetLife’s Mature Market Institute: www.eldercarecalculator.org.

    3. Analyze organizational and employee needs by doing surveys or conducting focus groups. Use the information to build a business case for implementing caregiving supports tailored to your company based on this research.

    4. Based on your evaluation and research, retrofit existing policies, programs, benefits and human resource information systems to reflect these changes, and identify any gaps.

    5. Research community services and government benefits and forge community partnerships to help implement low cost or free solutions to caregiver needs. For example, local offices on aging can offer on-site seminars on financial, legal and medical issues affecting elders. To find the closest office on aging to your business, go to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging at http://www.n4a.org/.

    6. Enhance current offering to include new programs, policies and benefits that are cost-neutral or money-saving solutions. Make sure that a list of existing, enhanced and new benefits that serve caregivers is included in employee orientation packets and communicated or distributed to all employees.

    7. Implement culture change initiatives that involve a sustained outreach and education program that legitimizes employee caregiver struggles and needs.

    8. Develop a method that tracks participation rates, cost-effectiveness and return on investment that’s logical, informative and easy to implement—and is not more expensive than the company offerings themselves.

    9. Inform managers about caregiver needs and employee-sponsored elder care initiatives, and train them in the skills and solutions they might need to mitigate caregiver-related work/life conflicts.

    10. Offer training workshops to help employees better assess their home and work situations, learn about company and community resources, learn how to effectively and comfortably talk to their direct supervisor about their issues as caregivers, and negotiate and jointly develop a plan that balances their work and elder care responsibilities.