Caring for a family member with an illness or disability may have considerable implications for several aspects of the caregiver’s life, including work. This dual role affects not only the family caregivers themselves, but also the workplace and the economy at large. Twenty-two percent of people employed in Israel are caring for a family member while holding down jobs. Recognizing the implications of combining work and caregiving, the expected increase in the percentage of elderly in the population and higher rate of informal support, and understanding the potential of programs to help employees cope with the care/work conflict, JDC-ESHEL and Caregivers Israel (CGI) developed a pilot program (hereinafter, the program) aimed at helping employees dealing with this conflict. The program was planned for implementation in three organizations and later expanded to ten organizations, with different intensity and levels of involvement (four industrial organizations, two pharmaceutical companies, three social organizations, and one government ministry).
In light of the innovative nature of the program in Israel and the paucity of empirical research on the impact of programs of this kind throughout the world, JDC-ESHEL commissioned the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute to conduct a formative evaluation of the program. The evaluation was conducted from 2015-2018.
The study goals were to provide information to the program implementers, participating organizations, and JDC-ESHEL on the scale of this phenomenon and to examine the implementation of the program and the perceived contribution at both the organizational and individual levels.
■ Organizational mapping survey: A mapping survey was conducted in the participating organizations (10 organizations) when the program was introduced into the organization.
■ Summary mapping of the organizational operating plan: Mapping of the characteristics of the participating organizations (10 organizations) and the activities conducted.
■ Summary organizational survey: Approximately two years after the first survey, an additional survey was conducted in three organizations.
■ In-depth interviews: Open face-to-face interviews were conducted with managers and employees in three organizations.
In the first mapping survey, between 25% and 30% of the employees in each of the organizations were caring for a family member. Forty-nine percent of the employees described themselves as primary caregivers (the family member who gives most of the help) and most of them (62%) were caring for elderly parents.
Most of the family caregivers reported that their care duties interfered with their daily schedule (85%) and that they had to take time or even days off work (81%) as a result. In addition, 19% reported that they were considering changing their employment status (e.g., cutting back weekly working hours) and 13% had gone without promotion.
Between 33% and 47% of the respondents said that program activity regarding family caregivers had raised their awareness of the matter to a great or very great extent. Fifty-six percent of the respondents in social organization A and about 40% of those in social organization B and industrial organization A agreed to a great or very great extent that there was someone to go to in the organization who dealt with issues concerning family caregivers. Fifty-one percent of the respondents in social organization A and 41% of those in industrial organization A agreed to a great or very great extent that the organization was doing more for its employers since the start of the program. Altogether, the interviews revealed that about half of the employees in social organization A and about 40% in industrial organization A reported the organizational activity was effective.
There is a significant presence of family caregivers working in organizations and they are paying a heavy price for having to combine their work and caregiving.
Several insights were gained from examining the organizational status and program activities over time:
- The rate of family caregivers in a place of work is dynamic and changes over time, as existing employees become caregivers and new employees join the organization. In other words, the organization’s attitude to providing solutions for “new” caregiver employees must be kept in mind over time.
- The number and quality of organizational activities differed from one organization to another. Some organizations offered a large number and diversity of activities, while others offered very limited activity.
- Unexpectedly, following the intervention, the organizational discourse did not increase in the three organizations examined in the summary survey. It increased in only one of them. However, the employees who were interviewed noted that the program had reinforced the legitimacy of talking about the subject, created a peer group, and reassured the employees that their jobs would not be affected by their caregiving commitments.
- Employees receiving direct help from CGI or a peer group and those who participated in workshops expressed satisfaction with the assistance, particularly those who received emotional support.
- In becoming “friendly” to family caregivers, the organizations placed significant emphasis on change in the organizational culture and the concept that work and family life have to fit in with each other. The organizational culture at organizations where the program was introduced treated employees from the start as “whole” people, and the activities concerning family caregivers fit with the general philosophy of the organization. In the future, the way that such programs can become part of organizations with a different organizational culture should be examined.