More Workplaces Offer Flexibility for Caregiving

Life work balanceFinally, employers seem to be getting the message that many of their workers have caregiving demands.

Increasingly, both nonprofit and for-profit companies are offering workplace flexibility, paid and unpaid leave, and resource and referral services, according to the 2014 National Study of Employers released today by the Families and Work Institute (FWI), along with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).


The study polled 1,051 employers with 50 or more employees. “The findings indicate that the issue of family caregiving is on the radar of many employers,” says Ellen Galinsky, president of FWI.

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And for good reason. Decision-makers increasingly are in eldercare binds themselves, or have friends who are. As Galinsky puts it, “You have to walk in someone else’s shoes to feel their pain.” But there’s a bottom line as well. We know that distracted, depressed or disengaged workers – like those who have to skip out of the office to take Mom or a spouse to the doctor, sub for a no-show home health aide, or suddenly find themselves flying to another state to deal with an eldercare crisis – can be less productive and even quit. That’s expensive for an employer.

On the other hand, workers with less stress, like those who feel valued and whose needs are met, tend to have fewer mental and physical problems. For a company, that translates into lower health care costs.

“The average family caregiver also works at a paying job and is likely to be at his or her career peak. It is in employers’ best interests to provide flexibility and support to their workers who are caring for adult family members or friends with a serious illness or disability,” says Lynn Feinberg, senior strategic policy adviser at AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

It is also in society’s best interests. According to an AARP study, close to 61.6 million U.S. family caregivers provided care to an adult in 2009. AARP estimates the cost for their unpaid work was nearly $450 billion in 2009, up from a nothing-to-sneeze-at figure of $375 billion in 2007. And consider this: Another AARP report underscores the urgency of having flexible work policies in place. It estimated that in 2010 there were seven potential family caregivers ages 45-64 (as in adult children) for every person over 80 – a time when many need help. By 2030, that ratio is projected to shrink to 4 to 1, getting as low as 3 to 1 in 2050. With fewer caregivers, work will have to get more flexible.

Other findings from the FWI/SHRM study on workplace flexibility:

  • More employers are offering at least 12 weeks of leave for workers who care for seriously ill family members (84 percent in 2008 vs. 90 percent in 2014). Few offer more than 12 weeks.
  • Places with the most flexibility are nonprofits; organizations with more women on staff; those that have more women and racial or ethnic minorities in executive leadership jobs or who directly report to such executives; and those that have fewer hourly employees, some part-time workers and entry-level positions that are hard to fill.
  • Organizations with 50 to 99 employees nationwide offer more flexibility than companies with 1,000 or more.


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Some employees already receive benefits under the law. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employers with 50 or more employees who meet certain conditions  (i.e., work at least 1,250 hours over a 12-month period) are required to give their workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for an immediate family member, and guarantee that their position or an equivalent one will be there when they return. Yet millions work for smaller companies or organizations, or just don’t qualify for FMLA benefits.

With so many employees with caregiving commitments and conflicts, and many more coming down the pike, decision-makers and human resource folks must come up with other creative programs and benefits to meet everyone’s needs. It’s worth it on so many levels.

Photo: jenbrayphotography/iStock

Sally Abrahms covers caregiving, housing and age 50+ work. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Career Transitions at 50+

If you’re older and looking for work in your field or want to change careers, you’ve got company. Lots of it. A combination of living longer, the fear of outliving retirement, fallout from the recession, the need to sock away more for later or collect health care benefits, and the desire to make a difference is making work important.CAREER expert Kerry Hannon says having a great online presence can give job seekers an edge.



According to a 2014 Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, 72 percent of preretirees want to work in their retirement years, and 47 percent who have retired have worked or plan to work. Boomers, it turns out, are starting more businesses than any other demographic.

While it’s true that older people, on average, take longer to find work than those who are younger, there are opportunities.

We spoke about job strategies with Kerry Hannon, a career and retirement expert and author of “What’s Next: Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job In Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond,” and “Great Jobs For Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy . . . And Pays the Bills.”

What is the work climate like for those aged 55 and over?

CAREER expert Kerry Hannon says having a great

online presence can give job seekers an edge.

I’m not going to say that ageism doesn’t exist, but the jobs are there. It’s clear that employers do not only want employees who are wearing hoodies.

Older workers have an edge when it comes to experience and knowledge, but what are the perceived disadvantages?

Some employers believe that older workers may not have the stamina to do the job, that they’re not up to speed with technology, won’t play nicely with younger colleagues, or will have a hard time reporting to a younger boss.

How do you combat that?

Get physically fit — you will exude vibrancy and a can-do attitude. Stay on top of technology and changes in the field. Sign up for computer workshops online, at local colleges, adult education or senior centers. Do you need to go back to school to get a certification? (Many community colleges offer age 50+ retraining.) Let employers know you have a collaborative work style with workers of any age. And, show them you are savvy by having a strong social media footprint.

What does that entail?

Hiring managers will do a Google search on you. You must have a good LinkedIn profile with a professional-looking headshot. Not including a photo doesn’t preclude age discrimination, but eliminates many opportunities. According to LinkedIn, recruiters are 11 times more likely to click on a profile that has a photo than one without. Get active in industry groups on LinkedIn, post interesting articles, and participate in discussions. It’s also a great way to pull together your professional network.

How important is it for older workers to be on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+?

A great online presence gives you an edge. Using social media properly allows recruiters to discover you, and for you to unearth job openings. You can reconnect with past colleagues and pals from across the decades now working in industries or companies you’d like to join. This simple and subtle networking is essential for everyone. If you’re not adept at social media, take a class or ask your niece, son, or a kid in the neighborhood, for help.

What else do you need?

A professional e-mail address like Gmail, not AOL or Yahoo, which will date you.

Can you market your age as an asset?

Yes. You need to articulate your value. Workers 50+ tend to be self-starters, know how to get the job done, and don’t need as much hand-holding as those with less experience. A great benefit to being older is that you have a good deal of knowledge and leadership ability. Chances are you will be hired over someone with less in their quiver and in need of training. Look at your skill set and past experience as transferable to lots of different challenges and fields. Nonprofits and small businesses are good for older workers. They often need your chops, although you may have to work for less.

Older workers are competing with younger job seekers who may not command as much money. Should a worker later in life be willing to sacrifice some salary for a job?

Absolutely. At this stage, it’s always best to get in the door and sacrifice money for a job you want to do. You might be able to negotiate for nonsalary compensation to offset your paycheck such as more vacation, flextime, work from home, even four-day weeks. If you perform well, they may bump up your salary.

Does it send a bad signal to accept less money?

If you like the job and want it or need it, it’s not worth being hard-line. It is also always easier to find a job when you have a job. So accept it, and then keep looking discreetly. In the meantime, you’re keeping your resume alive and your confidence up.

What if you’re unemployed?

Do something every day. Ask for advice and talk to people doing the jobs you’re considering. If you’re thinking of starting a business, volunteer, moonlight, get in there and do the job and see if it’s what you imagined it to be. Volunteering for a nonprofit lets you test the waters, adds to your resume, and puts you in touch with people who might know of a job opening or introduce you to someone who does.

Don’t a few companies have programs that pay a stipend to soon-to-be-retired employees so they can use their skills at a nonprofit and see if it might be their new career?

They’re called “encore careers,” combining socially meaningful work with a paycheck. Those jobs can turn into full-time positions or lead to other part-time or full-time work.

What do you think makes the people you’ve interviewed so successful at making a career transition or starting their own businesses?

They haven’t made rash moves. So, if you are beginning to think about the next chapter, start planning at age 55 what you want to do at age 60 or at 60 for 65. Is it to get into a different department or company, work fewer hours, be your own boss, or switch gears altogether? Do your homework, and network, network, network!

And Your Next Career Is. . .?

It may feel interminable, but your family caregiving days will be over some day. Really! And then what? You might opt for meaningful volunteering or a paycheck. You may be able to parlay what you’ve gained when you were in your taking care mode into saleable skills. You know something about the healthcare system, being organized and multi-tasking, right?

How about being a patient navigator (a certificate course at some community colleges), a senior move manager, professional organizer or personal assistant.

Even if you’re not taking care of a parent, spouse or friend, you may want to change up your life–get involved in a new field or venture. Work for a non-profit where you can have some social impact. Part-time or full-time work. Really anything.

There are good books on the market to help steer you to various professions and the hot jobs of today and the future. My favorites are Great Jobs for Everyone 50+ by Kerry Hannon, The Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboherand Nancy Collamer’
Second-Act Careers: 50 Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement.

Other great resources: The Community College Plus 50 Initiative from the American Association of Community Colleges, which offers courses and programs to train and retrain students age 50+ in volunteer, civic and service positions. I’m also recommending you check out what has to offer. Some companies, like Intel and HP, offer retiring or retired employees Encore Fellowships, a stipend at a non-profit. Those often lead to long-term paid work.

There are so many options today for boomers. I’ll be attending an conference in San Francisco that will provide more reinvention material. Stay tuned.