As a parent, daughter and human resources director, payroll and benefits for Boston Private, I understand firsthand how difficult and stressful it is for employees to care for loved ones and still work effectively.
Managing the special issues of children with learning disabilities, ADHD or autism, or simply the everyday challenges of our digital age, as well as caring for aging parents, is hard. It requires knowledge across financial, legal, social, educational and other systems in our society. In fact, The Many Faces of Caregivers: A Close-Up Look at Caregiving and Its Impacts, finds that 26 million caregivers are full-time employees. As a result of family caregiving duties, 76% of employees have used sick or vacation days, taken a leave of absence, or even quit their job. However, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies 2017 report, only 12% of employers offer online tools or resources to support employees who have family caregiving responsibilities.
Boston Private has not been immune to the challenges of our workforce. Our company embraces a HR strategy of “hire to retire,” so we strive to provide competitive employee benefits that fit our employee needs. In 2015 we undertook an executive-sponsored initiative to build out a comprehensive wellness benefits program. We had two overarching goals:
- Offer a comprehensive benefits plan that serves not only the employee but also his or her family, and
- Ensure the benefits plan helps with the hiring and retention of top talent.
Many care for both children and parents
During this process, we discovered that some of our employees were dealing with immense stress around caregiving responsibilities for their children and aging parents. With 46 being the average age of our employee population, we also found that many of our employees are part of the “sandwich generation” who are simultaneously caring for both their children and their aging parents. And it is not just Generation X that is dealing with caregiving challenges. A 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that about 25% of all caregivers were millennials.
Clearly, our workforce is not unique regarding the dual demands and stress at home and at work.
Boston Private strives to be a supportive employer; we do not want to have our employees feel compelled to choose between work and family. So, after a thorough analysis of possible employee benefits which could assist employees with the challenging care needs of their children, we implemented Torchlight Child, a digital, data-driven, human supported program that provides families with a highly personalized, online array of expert resources and tools to self-direct and advocate for their daily and ongoing challenges.
The Torchlight program helps our employees navigate a wide gamut of child-related challenges from birth to college age, including learning disabilities, mental health, cyber-bullying and anxiety. Personal recommendations are tailored to each child’s specific needs, while interactive tools offer help in over 250 topical areas.
Employees embrace the benefit
Given the challenges of launching any new benefit, we weren’t expecting immediate, high utilization, but it wasn’t long before we saw the number of users growing. Not long after launch, one of our executives, who has a child with special challenges, called me to report that this new benefit “has been amazing for our family.” He wasn’t alone. The feedback over the last three years has been very positive, and we’ve noted that our employees are utilizing the benefit to advocate for their children in extreme situations, as well as simply to help figure out simple solutions for everyday issues. Today, almost 10% of our workforce uses the benefit.
Eighteen months after launching Torchlight Child, we rolled out Torchlight Elder. This online service supports employees caring for aging parents and loved ones. It assists them with issues including Alzheimer’s, financial and legal matters, end-of-life decisions, housing, unique medical needs, and navigating Medicare and Medicaid.
In just the last year and a half, usage has grown steadily and now 9% of our workforce is using the elder service; 9.2% of our employees use both.
Three years after we embarked on our journey to add caregiving to our employee benefits, we are demonstrating to our employees that we care about their whole lives — inside and outside the office.