- Even before the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., workers were dealing with the impact of caregiving duties on their absenteeism and productivity, according to a February survey of 1,254 workers by caregiver service site Care.com.
- The majority (86%) of respondents said they had stayed at home from work to care for a family member or pet at least a few times per year, and more than half had done so at least once every couple of months. Seventy percent of those workers caring for an elderly person said they had to cut back on regular hours at work to do so. Similarly, 80% of respondents said they felt distracted at work due to concerns about caring for a family member or pet.
- An equal number of men and women in the survey said access to a subsidized back-up elder care benefit would make them stay at their current job, while more men than women said the same of "personalized guidance from a Senior Care Advisor." This is notable, Care.com said, because past research from AARP showed more than one-third of male family caregivers did not inform their employers about their caregiving responsibilities.
Caregiving has taken a central role in the lives of many employees working through the COVID-19 pandemic. School cancellations and the rise of remote work mean that many parents are working while their kids are just a short distance away.
Caregiving was already a taxing experience for some employees before the pandemic. A February survey by WebMD Health Services found that 56% of working women with caregiving responsibilities felt lonely and isolated either sometimes or always, and 44% of men with such responsibilities felt the same way. But the pandemic has exacerbated stress for caregivers other than parents as well. A survey this month from advocacy group UsAgainstAlzheimer's found that 92% of those caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease said their stress was higher because of the novel coronavirus.
Employers surveyed by the Northeast Business Group on Health in late 2019 and early 2020 said they were increasingly prioritizing caregiving benefits, with 78% saying that caregiving would be an increasingly important issue over the next five years. Some employers have responded to the pandemic with new offerings targeted to caregivers, including Verizon and online education company Chegg, which announced in April that it would reward a childcare reimbursement of $500 per family for parents struggling to balance work and life.
One researcher at the Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center found the annual cost of unpaid caregiving is likely to double by 2050 from its current annual estimate of $67 billion. But the true costs of caregiving may extend even further than some estimates calculate, given the impact that a lack of access to caregiving benefits may have on an employee's career trajectory and growth.