Absenteeism can refer to an employee taking frequent time off from work to address personal issues. Presenteeism can refer to the inability of an employee to focus at work because of personal stressors, resulting in an ongoing decline in work performance.
As care managers we listen to families talk about the toll of caregiving, in terms of caregiver stresses and burden. The consequences of caregiver burden are many, and may include difficulty focusing due to sleep deprivation, constant worry about what the future may hold, feelings of being a failure if you can’t care for your loved one alone, and declining physical and psychological health…to name a few. We often work with families whose primary caregiver works full-time, takes care of a loved one living with a chronic and progressive disease, and simultaneously parents children or grandchildren at home.
Let’s look at “both sides of the coin”...
8 challenges from the working caregiver perspective:
- Focusing fully on work is a significant challenge As a family caregiver you not only worry about your loved one, but feel responsible to check in by phone with your loved one, or arrange appointments and additional services during business hours.
- Feeling distracted is the norm Your work performance suffers because of sleep deprivation, internal and external distractions, and the struggle to focus on your workday duties.
- Wondering when the “other shoe will drop” Because you are aware that work performance suffers, you constantly worry about disciplinary action at work.
- Feeling guilty expands over time As feelings of guilt grow, so do anxiety and helplessness. Not only do you feel guilty for not being home 24/7, but also for not giving a 100% effort at the office.
- Unsure what to do now that PTO is exhausted Paid time off (PTO) or sick days are often used up early in the calendar year because of caregiving needs. And, you know there will be a need for many more days off than can be offered by your employer.
- Income is quickly spent Increasing medical costs associated with a loved one’s care is a significant and constant drain on income.
- Work-Life balance is strained Juggling two or more conflicting roles without time for yourself often results in numerous undesired outcomes, such as an increase in disagreements at home, a depressed and anxious mood, and many sleepless nights.
- Self-care is a distant dream Personal health and well-being deteriorates when you ignore your own care needs.
6 challenges from the employer perspective:
- Lost productivity While working caregivers are fighting the effects of absenteeism and presenteeism, projects are delayed and productivity lost. This obviously does not result in a successful business.
- Deterioration of job performance Not only is work not completed on time, but work quality and quantity suffer.
- Need to increase other staff members' workloads Other employees may begin to resent waiting for completed tasks or receiving an increased workload. Effective teamwork can dissolve very quickly.
- Working caregivers take more time away from the workplace This requires more supervision and assistance, so the employee can catch up. Sometimes, an employee must be placed on a performance improvement plan with management.
- Dealing with possible mood swings The working caregiver often shows signs of caregiver burden over time and managers find the need to address mood swings which negatively affect the work environment.
- Dealing with employees working while ill Family caregivers may come to work sick to save PTO, to be used when the next caregiver crisis arises. This in turn leads to exposure and possible illness by co-workers, with increased absenteeism.
So, what might be some of the solutions to address these challenges faced by both employer and employee-caregiver?
Here are 8 ideas to be considered, to combat absenteeism and presenteeism:
- Employers can offer Care Management benefits to employees. Consider contracting with a Care Management company to guide families through the care maze and provide working-caregivers with peace of mind while they are at work.
- Employers can provide aid through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Many medical and life insurance companies have an EAP program attached to their policies to counsel employees needing assistance.
- Employers can offer more PTO or set up a PTO bank. Employees can be asked to consider contributing days to those in need of extra days off.
- Employers can establish a Sick Leave program. This program can be set up in addition to PTO for eligible employees to address the issue of working while sick because of no remaining PTO.
- Employers can provide job security. Guidelines can be established for employee-caregivers who may not be eligible for FMLA.
- Employees can take advantage of offered benefits and services. Ask HR about the benefit options available through your place of employment. Don’t fall into the mind-set that you have to provide all care to your loved one alone.
- Employees can seek additional resources available. Contact your local Office on Aging, Area Agency on Aging and Disability (AAAD), or church community about services for which you may be eligible.
- Employees can explore what self-care means to them. A self-care plan with follow-through is of utmost importance, so you will be there to care for your loved ones in need.