What Facebook is doing to help employees who are caregivers

When Lisa Poon joined Facebook as the company’s senior benefits manager five years ago, the social media company had about 15,000 employees. That number has since ballooned to nearly 60,000 workers across the globe, and the needs of employees have grown, too — especially when it comes to caregiving.

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“[Facebook is] becoming increasingly more diverse as it grows, and that means the number of employee caregivers continues to grow as well, each with their own unique set of needs,” Poon said Wednesday during a session at the virtual Spring HR Technology Conference & Exposition. (The free event runs through March 19; register here to see live and on-demand sessions.)

Related: Read more Spring HR Tech coverage here.

Facebook already offered a number of benefits that aimed to help caregivers, especially parents: It had in place a generous parental leave program, which gives new moms and dads four months of leave at 100% pay. The company also embraced flexible work schedules and hours, allowing and encouraging employees to take the time they needed to go to doctor’s appointments or children’s events or even just take time for self-care during the workweek.

But Facebook wanted to do more. “There had been a lot of focus on those caring for young children and young families, and things definitely shifted with people finding themselves on both ends [like taking care of their aging parents],” Poon said. “We realized it was critical to provide meaningful caregiving support in order to positively impact our people’s overall wellbeing, especially for those caregivers with complex care situations.”

Early last year, right before the pandemic, Facebook partnered with Wellthy, a health-tech care concierge firm that connects employees and families with a care coordinator to help them manage and coordinate care for a chronically ill, aging or disabled loved one through its online platform. Care coordinators can help with a number of tasks, including contesting insurance bills, making appointments or finding a long-term care facility.

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Facebook launched the service in September for its employees and has had great feedback so far, Poon said. Wellthy also has saved an estimated 20,000 hours for caregivers at Facebook.

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Caregiving has been a growing concern for employers, and for good reason. One in five adults are caregivers, and many of them are working adults. Furthermore, 92% of caregivers report heightened stress: from a financial perspective they are spending a lot of money out of pocket–$825 monthly on caregiving expenses, Eileen Roach, head of partnerships at Wellthy, said during the Spring HR Tech session. And caregivers say their responsibilities affect them at work.

“This can come in many fashions: taking time off, conflicts with meetings or having to miss meetings, perhaps individuals are not being considered for career advancement opportunities because of those responsibilities,” she said.

And COVID-19 has undoubtedly made those stresses worse. “Certainly we’re seeing individuals have felt they had to leave the workplace entirely, and there have been lots of statistics and studies on that in recent months,” Roach said.

Related: How COVID-19 is aggravating the caregiving crisis

Facebook noticed more stress and caregiving concerns because of COVID-19, Poon agreed.

“Everything was heightened with the pandemic,” she said. “Implications of the pandemic created more urgent need, requiring more creative solutions.” Benefits like Wellthy have helped them cope. “It’s really touching people’s lives and really giving them relief from the stress that all this brings them.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.