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A report from Harvard Business School has shown that the US is facing a caregiving crisis, with research showing that responsibilities for care are having a negative effect on employee productivity and on firm profitability.

According to the survey conducted by The Caring Company, a report co-authored by a leading HBS professor and a senior researcher, as many as 80% of employees with caregiving responsibilities for a young child or elderly relative feel that those responsibilities impact on their ability to perform at work.

While only 24% of employers believe this to be the case, 52% of employers have no measurement in place and therefore do not realise if, when and how their employees are feeling the burden of combining care and work.

Ragnar Horn is a financial supporter of the Harvard Business School and a member of the Global Leaders Circle.

The Caring Company

The Caring Company research report focuses on how employers in the US can boost productivity in the workplace and cut costs through strategic investment in managing employee caregiving needs. The report found that in most companies the economies of care are misaligned, with employers paying out hidden costs incurred through non-provision of adequate support for employees with caregiving responsibilities. These hidden costs include absenteeism, higher staff turnover, presenteeism and rehiring.

In the Executive Summary of the Caring Company report, the authors state that the US is on the brink of a caregiving crisis, yet employers and companies are refusing to acknowledge it.

In the infographic attachment you can view the top employee behaviours that undermine career progression.

Misalignment of Benefits and Usage

One key finding from the report indicated that many employees do not take advantage of the caregiving benefits that are offered by their company, despite being eligible to do so. For example, 65% of surveyed companies stated that they offered the option of flexible working hours, yet only 39% of employees worked flexible hours. 60% of companies surveyed offered maternity leave and 37% offered paternity leave, yet only 28% and 22% of employees respectively took advantage of this. 39% of companies provided counselling services, with an uptake of 23% among employees.

The survey questioned 300 HR leaders and 1,500 employees. The results show that, while many companies do spend money and time to provide benefits for employees, there is a disparity between that provision and the uptake. This implies that either employees are not being properly encouraged to take advantage of the benefits on offer, or the package of benefits does not accurately reflect what those employees want or need.

The short video attachment looks at the need for a regular care census to identify and address employee needs as caregivers.

Senior Employees Most Affected

The results of the research showed that the more senior levels of employees were the most likely to be affected across all age groups. The percentage of employees within the 26-35 age group who admitted to leaving a professional position due to conflicts with caregiving was 23%. At the levels of manager of employees and manager of managers, these figures rose to 44% and 53% respectively. A total of 61% of senior leaders within that age group had voluntarily left a job because it conflicted with their caregiving responsibilities. In both the 18-25 and the 36-45 age groups, the percentages also rose the higher the level of employee responsibility.

In the PDF attachment, you can read about the wider project from Harvard Business School, Managing the Future of Work, which explores the forces and trends that are redefining the work environment in the United States and across the world.