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Planning to Provide Workplace Programs

A “best practice” approach is one that is accessible to all employees, respects their privacy, is mission-driven for the employer and is provided by competent professionals. Many employers report that feedback from employees is the most important factor in determining the importance of their workplace programs.

With the appropriate employee feedback, employers can identify their programs key goals. The goals of most employers are to increase employee engagement, reduce absenteeism rates, increase retention rates, and reduce the health care costs of employee caregivers.

During the planning process, it is important to review existing policies and benefits to ensure consistency with the mission of an eldercare program, listen to employees, and rely on professionals in caregiving. These elements are key to planning an approach that your employees will actually use.

The common trend since the early 1980's is that less than 4% of work based eldercare programs ever get utilized. Studies have shown that knowledge about these services did not significantly impact an employee’s decision to use services. Rather, employees reported they had concerns about revealing their family issues at work. Supportive supervisors who encourage employees to be proactive in their efforts to balance work and family may be the most important factor in the decision to use workplace programs.

Key Elements of a Workplace Program

Paid Time Off and Flexibility in Scheduling

Employees report that time is the biggest problem and are often reluctant to ask for time off if they have to explain their situation to a supervisor. Flexibility in scheduling not only benefits the employee but has benefits for the employer as well.

EXAMPLES: Some employers offer "flex-time", which allows many employees to modify work schedules with advance notice. Paid time off for caregiving purposes has been implemented by some employers. This time off is above the usual vacation, sick and personal days. One large employer offers up to a week of paid time off for caregiving and flexible scheduling. One small employer, who is not covered under federal FMLA regulations, has started an Elder Emergency Time Off (EETO) and a family and medical leave policy. Employees can take up to five days of paid time off in addition to the four weeks of vacation and 10 paid holidays a year. The family and medical leave policy provides up to 90 days of unpaid leave during which their medical benefits and stock options continue. Another employer offers employees the opportunity to bank paid time off. One employer has a specific leave program for employees with family members who are terminally ill—two weeks of paid time off.

Geriatric Care Manager Service and Consultations

Access to a geriatric care manager can provide invaluable support and information to an employee with eldercare responsibilities. Since each care situation is unique, an individualized consultation can customize a plan that recognizes the capacity of the family to provide care, the needs of the older person and the environmental resources at hand. Keeping the care manager independent from the needs of the employer and focused solely on the well-being of the elder and his or her family members is likely to produce better results for the employee and his or her family.

Offering Employees Benefits Based On Core Business Elements

Healthcare providers should ensure that services they provide for their patients or insured were also available to their employees. Information and referral services, webcasts, stress-reduction and evidence-based initiatives such as blood pressure management programs, and an evidence-based program for those who were caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, are examples of some of the program elements provided as a “cross-over” benefit to employees.

Volunteer Programs

Not all employers have the resources for employee assistance programs, vendor-managed eldercare programs or geriatric care management services on site. One possible solution is to develop a program that is organized and managed as a volunteer program by employees. A grass-roots effort developed by employees who have eldercare issues. Although the volunteers shouldn't use their work time for the program, the company could provide some financial support for their attendance at workshops or meetings related to family caregiving. Managers should sit on an advisory committee to help guide the program.

Corporate Culture

Employees often report how important the corporate culture is to the success of a program. In some companies, it has been a corporate leader who initiated the program and made sure that the culture recognized the importance of supporting caregiving employees. In other companies, the managers and supervisors value the eldercare program as well as other work-life benefits and policies and make sure that employees are aware of resources available to them.

Free Workplace Presentation

Schedule a free presentation at your workplace for you or your employees!
Schedule with Karen Ortiz at (805) 875-8905
or e-mail at