Five ways to build an effective health strategy for a multi-generational workforce

Advice and top tips

Five ways to build an effective health strategy for a multi-generational workforce

For the first time in history, workplaces can have five generations working side by side, each bringing a different set of skills to the table – and a different set of health risks.

From baby boomers to generation X and millennials to generation Z, these demographics need to be managed, rewarded and mentored differently – and their employee health risks and preferences must also be looked at through a generational lens.

Balancing the physical health needs and expectations of a multi-generational workforce is a challenge for employers, but one that can pay substantial dividends if executed well with benefits that meet the specific needs of each group.

The silent generation

Companies must not forget the silent generation, which includes employees aged 72 and above.

With people now living longer and retiring later, this cohort of workers is set to form a larger proportion of the employee population over the coming years.

Common concerns for this older generation are visual or hearing impairment, musculoskeletal conditions, heart conditions, bereavement and isolation.

Regular medical assessments would help to identify health risks and enable early intervention and cash plans would offer access to discounted hearing and sight tests.   For emotional wellbeing, companies should consider offering access to face-to-face counselling.

Ensuring the working environment is optimal, with any necessary adaptions to work stations, work patterns or additional technical support, will help limit the aggravation of musculoskeletal conditions and lower stress levels.

Baby boomers

It is predicted that by 2020 this group of individuals will comprise 30% of workers in the UK, so supporting baby boomers’ physical health with tailored health benefits is essential.

The Department of Health’s ‘Health of the Baby Boomer Generation’ report highlights that 42% of this group are living with at least one medical condition while nearly a quarter (24%) were managing more than one condition.

The most common physical health issues amongst this cohort are musculoskeletal (MSK) problems (21 per cent).

Coronary disease is the most common cause of death amongst baby boomers, aggravated by smoking, poor diet and unhealthy body weight.  They are also less physically active than their predecessors.

Flexible working options and ergonomic workstations will help to optimise the wellbeing of those managing MSK.  Onsite health assessments, discounted gym memberships and long-term care insurance alongside internal education campaigns on healthy lifestyles can all benefit these employees.

Generation X

Generation X employees have lived through boom and bust times.

This is the generation tasked with juggling childcare responsibilities while caring for elderly relatives and dealing with their own health concerns linked to middle age – including weight gain due to a slower metabolism, muscle loss due to ageing, hypertension and menopause.

With the pressures, it is not surprising that 28 per cent reported suffering from stress and anxiety, according to our Global Attitudes to Benefits Survey (GBAS).

More than a third (35 per cent) blamed financial concerns and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) believe that their health was a key factor behind their raised stress levels.

Companies can look to ease these pressures – and promote positive mental health – by offering benefits including childcare vouchers, flexible working arrangements to fit with care responsibilities, dental insurance for the whole family and support services to advise on care options.

Wearable technology to monitor and boost physical activity and health conditions would also benefit Generation Xers.

Millennials

Our GBAS report identified millennials as the most stressed, most health conscious, and the most financially strained of the three generations.

Sixty-one per cent of millennials told us that they were highly stressed with more than a third (34 per cent) stating that they had suffered from anxiety and depression – the highest proportion of the three generations.

Nearly half of young workers (47 per cent) cited finances as a key reason for their heightened stress, and 29 per cent said their health was a stressor – the highest figures among the different generations.

Obesity, sleep deprivation and mental health issues are particularly prevalent amongst younger employees. Millennials are conscious about protecting their physical wellbeing, with 16 per cent citing health benefits as a priority, compared to 12 per cent of Generation Xers and just 10 per cent of baby boomers.

Wearable technology, health insurance, discounted gym memberships, cycle-to-work schemes and financial incentives would deliver tailored support to these health-conscious younger employees.

Wider benefits supporting emotional wellbeing of this generation, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), would also help address prevalent stress issues.

Generation Z

The youngest of the employee population, Generation Z employees have never known a world that was not connected.

This cohort grew up in an on-demand society, with everything just a click away.

But this connectivity brings exposure on a global scale and it is widely reported how these pressures are affecting the mental health of this generation.

The good news is that this generation is more likely than previous ones to be open and seek help for mental health issues.  This is due largely in part to the greater awareness of mental health issues and the diminishing stigma around mental ill health.

Companies should look at how they can harness the power of tech to support this generation’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

According to our Health and Benefits Barometer research, post-millennial workers were more likely than their older cohorts to use telemedicine. Forty-one per cent of employees age 18-24 said they’d prefer to use digital GPs, compared to just 16 per cent of those aged 55 and over.

Companies could consider offering access to telemedicine services for these digital natives, as well as offering access to tech aimed at reducing stress and boosting positive mental health, such as meditative and mood-monitoring apps.

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