'Caregiving crisis' a hidden cost for businesses

U.S. employers are losing out by not paying attention to one particular responsibility their workers have outside of the office: caregiving.

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According to a new study from researchers at the Harvard Business School, despite the fact that a majority of workers are attempting to balance caregiving duties with their professional lives, most employers are not fully aware of – or do not acknowledge – the extent to which those responsibilities can impact performance and productivity. The problem is so widespread that researchers referred to it as a “caregiving crisis.”

Some examples of caregiving responsibilities include taking care of a sick child or providing care for other adults.

About three-quarters of employees reported having some type of caregiving responsibility – and 80 percent of people say those duties negatively impacted their work performance.

On the other hand, less than one-quarter of employers thought familial duties were directly affecting employee performance.

That gap highlights a problem for employers, whom researchers found are inadequately responding to the needs of employees – hurting themselves in the process.

The study showed that because companies don’t provide benefits to account for these types of responsibilities, some workers leave their jobs—which leads to increased turnover costs and diminished productivity. Thirty-two percent of people told Harvard’s researchers that they had left a job because they were unable to balance the professional and personal responsibilities.

Some companies incur costs because they need to hire temporary workers, or pay other workers overtime, when a caregiver is absent.


While researchers noted that it is difficult to quantify the exact costs of caregiving on a business, they suggest they are steep – and will only continue to rise as the population ages, the economy approaches full employment and as women – expected to shoulder a larger share of the caregiving load – become a bigger part of both the population and the workforce.