Magazine article Personnel

First Interstate Finds an Eldercare Solution

Magazine article Personnel

First Interstate Finds an Eldercare Solution

Article excerpt

First Interstate Finds AN ELDERCARE SOLUTION

Employers are beginning to understand that the stress and strain on employees of caring for elderly and/or disabled relatives can seriously affect the workplace. This growing awareness has prompted some employers, including First Interstate Bank of California, to make modest short-term investments in eldercare benefits, with an eye toward boosting employee morale and performance in the long run.

A couple of years ago, First Interstate Bank heard from its managers and supervisors that employees needed help with work and family issues, including eldercare. Julia Gettinger, manager of work and family programs at the bank, recalled, "They said that if they had such help, they wouldn't have to take so much time off work and that their productivity would improve."

Recognizing a growing trend from these anecdotal reports and a desire to keep its benefits package competitive, the bank assigned a task force to undertake a dependent care needs assessment of its 15,000 employees.

The survey, which went out in January 1990 and had a 70 percent response rate, found that nearly 900 employees - about 8 percent - provide care for one or more elderly or disabled relatives, and 25 percent said they expected to do so by 1993.

Further, 30 percent of supervisors said their subordinates' caring for elderly or disabled family members had a negative impact on operations due to increased anxiety and health problems, requests for time off, leaves of absence and absenteeism.

After the survey was tabulated, the task force developed a list of options for addressing the bank's dependent care needs. At the top of the list was naming a work and family programs manager in the human resources department, which the bank did when it brought Gettinger on board in September.

Gettinger's first order of business, she said, was to "figure out how to make the task force's other recommendations, especially flexible scheduling, work at the bank." Flexible schedules was the favorite option cited by employees on the survey, followed by on-site childcare.

Because the bank's employees work at more than 300 sites around the state, on-site childcare was not an immediately feasible option. "So I called every company I could find that had flexible schedules," Gettiner said, "and asked how it worked, what impacts on productivity and absenteeism the companies were experiencing, and so forth."

As a result, she designed a flexible scheduling program with four components: job sharing, home-based work, flexible work schedule and compressed work week.

Gettinger then set out to sell it to senior management. …

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