By Joanna Drake
C200 member Joanna Drake co-founded Magnify Ventures to partner with entrepreneurs who are boldly transforming how modern families and communities live, work and care for one another. She has advised and invested in other founders solving important problems with technology, as General Partner of Core Ventures Group and a member of Broadway Angels, a world-class all female investor collective.
The last few years of forced shelter-in-place and a redistributing workforce lifted the curtain on how dramatically our working population—both men and women—is struggling with the burden of family caregiving. In the first year of scrambling into team meetings over Zoom, we were thrilled to see colleagues’ pets, kids, and parents hovering in the backgrounds, not considering the extra load of caregiving that comes with them.
As our remote work habits and technology evolved, we’re better able to blur our families out of our computer backgrounds, but they didn’t just disappear. The odds are that the bulk of your colleagues and employees are distracted and exhausted from caregiving, even if they’re able to show up during “normal” work hours.
Three-quarters of the adult population identify as members of the “sandwich generation”—caring for both kids and elder family members. Juggling these responsibilities can lead to serious stress issues over time – burnout, emotional overload, and mental fatigue. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2022 poll revealed that when adults are feeling stressed, around three-quarters (76%) reported their lives were negatively impacted—specifically their mental health, susceptibility to physical illness, and their ability to engage in necessary daily tasks.
Companies most likely to retain top talent are those that embrace data-driven, employee-first policies. Throw an economic downturn in our midst and managers at every level should be sitting up and trying to lean in with solutions for a more family-friendly working construct.
On a bright note, I believe that the future of work for working parents and caregivers will improve as technology innovation brings options and relief. In my investor role at Magnify Ventures, I am privileged to work with startups tackling employee’s caregiving challenges so that not only are they able to ‘show up at work,’ but also able to be fully present and effective. Many remarkable entrepreneurs, inspired by their own lived experiences as working parents and caregivers, are delivering new tech-enabling tools and services that will transform the $650B antiquated Care Economy.
The following caregiving challenges map to major needs along your employee’s lifecycle; addressing these issues can serve as a powerful talent retention and productivity strategy while improving the mental health and well-being of caregivers and families.
Mental Health Support for New Mothers
The journey from preconception to pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood is usually a bumpy one, especially for working mothers. Studies show that 30% of all women experience anxiety or depression through the perinatal period, and only 85% of women with postpartum depression receive treatment —producing a variety of generational consequences for these women and their families.
Seven Starling offers a cohort-based care model featuring specialized therapists covered by insurance, designed to help pregnant and new moms to overcome stress and anxiety and learn to juggle the demands of early parenting. By providing resources and empathetic counseling, referring employers can help new working parents enjoy their journey and ultimately increase their capacity to return to work.
Access to Affordable Childcare and Pre-School
Lack of accessible early childcare is the number one driver of new parents not returning to work. A February 2020 Survey conducted by LinkedIn and Censuswide found that nearly half of mothers were taking an extended break after the birth of a child, finding it more cost-effective to stay home than to pay for childcare. While some childcare providers have recently returned to the workforce, we will continue to face long-term systematic childcare issues of access, cost, and worker shortages.
Kinside employs digital technology to start chipping away at this country’s childcare crises. The online marketplace matches employees with vetted childcare providers, by location, need, and availability. Working parents can find real-time options at discounted rates and with seamless payment options including Dependent Care FSA funds and ACH.
Support for Older Adults and Caregivers
The U.S. is amidst an epidemic of isolation and loneliness among our growing older adult population as we live longer lives and more people are choosing to age in place at home. Families with remote older adults living alone during the pandemic witnessed this disturbing trend: long periods of forced physical isolation and loneliness led to a dramatic increase in mental and physical health issues for older adults.
Loneliness and isolation are costly: they are associated with roughly $7 billion in additional healthcare costs annually among Medicare beneficiaries and contribute to poor health outcomes, including a 50 percent increased risk of early mortality. Cigna’s survey on loneliness highlights that “loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.”
Papa was launched in 2018 as a marketplace to match gig economy workers with seniors needing an errand, help with technology or just a “Papa Pal.” Papa works with health plans and employers to connect older adults to real people for help with companionship, everyday tasks, transportation, and more. This support helps to address isolation and loneliness while improving overall health and well-being to reduce healthcare costs.
It is the company’s virtual and live trusted companionship programs, available through payor and employer channels, that continue to keep older adults connected and enable independent living through the pandemic and beyond.
Digital Employee Leave Platform
Life happens, and when it does, one of the most important investments an employer can make for employees dealing with health and family challenges is to ensure easy and stress-free temporary leave. With teams more distributed than ever before, adhering to caregiver laws that vary by state can quickly become a complex part of a company’s compliance efforts.
Regardless of the need—from paternity to COVID illness, to mental health and bereavement—employers can lean on the Cocoon software platform to automate state and insurance filings, comply with changing leave laws and, most importantly, enable their employees to experience a painless, private leave experience that can ensure a warmer welcome back when they’re ready to return to work.
It’s evident that caregiving pressures can be a barrier to work—especially for mothers, who disproportionately take on caregiving responsibilities. Companies focused on supporting the needs of working families are positioned to attract and retain top talent, appealing to workers in their prime while holding on to valuable employees with caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace.