Back in the 1990s, many baby boomers were wondering what on earth they would do with their children while they were working.
The employee benefits industry responded by developing and expanding work-life services programs, to help boomers juggle work and family responsibilities.
Now, work-life services experts say, benefits advisors should help employers update work-life programs and employee assistance programs to meet the needs of boomers who are more likely to be caring for teenagers and aging parents than for small children.
When the 60-something and 50-something rainmakers who keep a company going start calling EAPs with urgent questions about adult daycare or services for checking on parents living in other states, “you want to be able to do something concrete,” says Andrea Sinisi, marketing director at Bensinger, DuPont & Associates Inc., Chicago, an EAP/work-life services firm.
The benefits industry designed EAPs to manage mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. It then came up with work-life programs to give workers assistance with child care and other issues that can put stress in any worker’s life.
In 2005, 54% of employers with 50 or more employees said they offered EAPs, according to the authors of a survey report published by the Families and Work Institute, New York.
A benefits broker may collect only a couple of dollars in commissions per EAP/work-life services program member per year, but a successful EAP/work-life program can help hold down overall health and disability costs and improve morale in ways that may increase worker productivity.
Benefits advisors should make sure employers have solid EAP mental health services, EAP vendors say.
Although an EAP can help employees of all ages deal with stress and depression, it also “can help boomers deal with and manage the feelings and challenges they come across as they age, making them happier, more confident and more productive,” according to Harris, Rothenberg International L.L.C., New York.
Another obvious goal of a benefits advisor should be to help an employer improve services for members of the “Sandwich Generation”–the employees who find themselves caring both for children and aging parents at the same time.
In 2001, 44% of boomers born between 1946 and 1956 were members of the Sandwich Generation, or individuals with living parents and children under age 21, according to AARP, Washington.
About 37% of all individuals providing unpaid care for frail or disabled adults over age 55 have children living in their homes, according to a 2004 AARP survey funded by the MetLife Foundation, New York.