Monday, Jan 30, 2023
Supporting Working Women Caregivers
Lisa CollinsCEO, Optum Advisory Services
Redesigning health system infrastructure to provide tools, ease stress and build whole health for caregiving employees.
Women are more likely to provide caregiving support to their family or household members. In fact, 70.8% of all primary caregivers are women while only 29.2% are men.1 Women also experience greater partner caregiver burden than men. As a result, women experience more secondary stressors, such as relational and financial problems, and difficulty combining different tasks.2
Additionally, due to greater caregiving responsibilities, women are also more likely to experience long-term physical and behavioral health effects from the associated stress. These include conditions ranging from mental health issues and a weakened immune system to digestive problems and increased risk for chronic disease. Outwardly, effects of caregiving burnout can manifest as anxiety, depression, irritability, constant fatigue, trouble concentrating, neglecting responsibilities, frequent headaches and other types of pain.
Health leaders are seeing the impact that caregiving is having on their own workforce. And, as the elderly population grows, this challenge will continue.
To be part of a strategic health system solution, leaders can:
- Identify the caregivers in their own workforce
- Recognize the health impact of caregiver stress
- Develop flexible staffing strategies
- Expand workflows that support remote work
- Attract and retain caregiving employees with whole-health support
Making the caregiving connection
So, how might health leaders recognize when caregiving is the underlying concern? The first step is to acknowledge that up to 20% of your workforce could be caregivers.3 An estimated 1 in 5 Americans, or 53 million adults, provide care to an adult or a child with special needs. There are also 100,000 fewer childcare workers than there were before the pandemic.4
Leaders in an organization often turn to metrics such as engagement scores and attrition rates to determine why caregiving employees may be unhappy. However, this data alone may be misleading. Employees may be experiencing burnout from caregiving, diversity issues or racial biases and other factors behind the scenes, causing them to leave an organization.
Operational strategies employers can use to support working women caregivers include:
- Encouraging managers to have direct conversations with caregiving employees
- Listening and learning directly about the pressures caregivers face
- Offering flexible schedules that allow caregivers to work when they have the most energy
- Empowering caregivers to choose the tasks they are most comfortable completing
- Providing job-share hybrid and remote work options
- Weaving automation into infrastructure, where possible
- Implementing tools that simplify workflows, create more intelligent operations, ease tasks and promote the caregiver’s value
Igniting a culture shift
Not only is attracting caregiving women employees vital for your workforce, retaining them is of equal importance.
Employers can garner loyalty and raise employee satisfaction by ensuring there is transparency surrounding the stress and burnout related to caregiving. They can also recognize and elevate the value that caregivers provide to the workplace, home and greater community.
Encouraging caregivers to be open about their full responsibilities can increase trust and longevity. Employers should also consider offering guidance and mental health counseling, as well as on-site daycare.
In terms of the overall work environment, employee caregivers crave a culture of patience and empathy. In addition to being seen and heard, they want to feel connected. This can happen through one-on-one meetings and social support networks on-site. Finally, outlining a clear purpose and mission for work and how caregiver employees fulfill that purpose will make them feel valued within an organization.
As health systems attempt to solve the greater workforce crisis, care delivery is being reshaped, and working women caregivers are a key aspect of the equation. Supporting them strengthens the overall workforce, fortifies a stronger community, and boosts whole health for those caring for the health of others.
1 Zippia. Primary caregiver demographics and statistics in the U.S.
2 National Library of Medicine. Explaining the Gender Gap in the Caregiving Burden of Partner Caregivers
3 National Alliance for Caregiving. November 2021 National Report: Caregiving in a Diverse America: Beginning to Understand the Systemic Challenges Facing Family Caregivers
4 The New York Times. Why You Can’t Find Child Care: 100,000 Workers Are Missing