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Business Benefits of a Flexible Workplace for Family Caregivers

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Employers give a variety of reasons for implementing employee and family assistance initiatives. According to the 2016 National Study of Employers (NSE) released by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management),* those reasons range from retaining employees (the top reason) to it's the right thing to do.

If you're looking strictly at the bottom line, though, there are business benefits of instituting polices such as flextime, eldercare resources, vacation and telework or telecommuting options.

According to Determining the Return on Investment – Supportive Policies for Family Caregivers,** evidence supports the business case for offering such benefits that allow caregivers to balance their jobs with other responsibilities, such as flextime and telework. For instance, this report found that for every dollar invested in flextime, businesses can expect a return of between $1.70 and $4.34. And for every dollar invested in telecommuting, the return is between $2.46 and $4.45.

Drew Holzapfel, convener for ReACT (Respect a Caregivers' Time), who sponsored the study with AARP, said changing cultures begins at the top with support from C-Suite management.

"When the CEO believes in it, there's a trickle-down effect. However, regardless of how important and necessary are the policies, benefit delivery can break down between the employee and the front-line manager.

"When we've done focus groups, it's easy to get employee caregivers to come, but harder to get the front-line managers there. Some are in denial; others don't want to see it."

Surprisingly, oftentimes employees don't even know what their company offers in the way of family-friendly benefits, Holzapfel said. "When we look at utilization of benefits, that rate is very low," he said. "Employees either don't know their benefit options or they don't realize how to use their benefits, such as being able to activate the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)," he noted. (While eldercare leave is not specifically required by the federal FMLA, "family leave for seriously ill family members" is.)

Regardless, some companies are doing creative things including Skype doctor appointments. "There are pockets of innovation and an increasing reliance on technology, one example being SimpleMeds®, a medication management system of pre-packaged prescriptions," Holzapfel noted.

ReACT is an employer-focused coalition dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by employee caregivers and reducing the impact on the companies that employ them. ReACT represents nearly 1 million employees through its membership of more than 40 companies and nonprofit organizations.

Related Resources

*The SHRM 2016 National Study of Employers (NSE) (PDF) released in 2017 by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)

**Determining the Return on Investment – Supportive Policies for Family Caregivers (PDF)

Last revised: May 31, 2017

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