It’s a fact: the workforce is aging. The reasons vary— financial, health care benefits, self-fulfillment, there’s no doubt that older employees are working longer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in every five American workers is over the age of 65. And the segment of the U.S. labor force that is projected to grow the fastest between now and 2024 are people aged 65 to 74, and those 75 and older.
Challenges older employees face
Older employees bring a lot of value to their employers, providing experience and specialized or institutional knowledge, among other things. But they may also have age-related challenges that can impact productivity. Programs that address these needs can help older employees stay productive and healthy on the job.
It’s worth noting that many older workers don’t need any type of accommodation or program. And employers should prioritize the health and well-being of all their workers, no matter their age. The good news is that, in general, what’s good for older workers is good for everyone.
Here are some steps you can take to maintain the health and safety of your employees—including the older population. (By the way, there is no consensus on the age at which workers are considered “older workers.” The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, considers an older worker to be someone aged 55 or older.)
3 ways to maintain health and safety of older employees
Lower back pain, carpal tunnel, and tendinitis are an issue for everyone, but are more common in older workers. Ergo-friendly workstations can prevent or reduce musculoskeletal problems and increase productivity. Adjustable seating, adequate lighting, and keyboard placement that allows for proper hand, wrist, and arm positioning are just a few of the components that go into a well-designed workstation. You can address age-related vision and hearing loss with bigger monitors, better lighting, screens that have less glare, and headphones that amplify phone conversations.
It’s also important to reduce workplace hazards. Uneven carpets, wet floors, and electrical cords that extend across walkways can create dangerous conditions that cause people to trip or fall.
Offer health promotion programs
The risk for chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension increases with age. Chronic conditions can have a significant impact on employees’ health and quality of life—and contribute to the rising medical costs and lower productivity that heavily impact an employer’s bottom line. Health improvement programs can address risk factors like tobacco use, poor eating habits, and physical inactivity can benefit everyone—and it’s never too late to start.
Encourage use of employee assistance programs (EAPs)
Older employees may be dealing with stressors that can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism, and reduced productivity. Common stresses include taking care of their elderly parents, empty nest syndrome, divorce, and retirement planning. An EAP can manage the needs of an aging workforce by providing eldercare consultation, financial planning assistance, legal consultation, stress management programs, and more.
Companies have a lot to gain when they maximize the skills and experience that older workers bring to the table. Take the needs of this population into account with programs and practices and benefit all of your employees–and your bottom line.