Helen Smith: Managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce

helen smith

Demographic change is expected to profoundly affect the UK labour market over the next two decades, and organisations today often have five different generations working side by side.

Research shows that focusing on health, wellbeing and flexibility will help employers to improve employee satisfaction. However, it is crucial for organisations to be able to manage the wellbeing of each generation effectively in order to see these results. The challenge is that one generation’s needs and preferences may not be the same as another’s.

To help organisations understand the characteristics and needs of each generation, and therefore provide suitable initiatives, Benenden worked with Jane Abraham, health and wellbeing specialist and managing director of Flourish Workplace, to create a useful guide to the needs and initiatives of for each generation.

‘The Silent Generation’: 72 and above

Some concerns for this older generation are musculoskeletal conditions, heart conditions, poor sleep, visual or hearing impairment and bereavement of loved ones. Considering this range of concerns, possible initiatives aimed at this generation of employees include: health assessments to identify possible health risks in advance; ensuring the correct ergonomic set up of workstations; offering discounted sight and hearing tests; and providing access to counselling or an employee assistance programme (EAP) to help with bereavement and loss.

‘Baby Boomers’: aged between 54 and 71

This generation is in the period of life where diseases and disabilities most often develop. They may be less active than younger generations, and suicide rates are also highest among this group. Possible wellbeing initiatives for these individuals might involve encouraging exercise through gym memberships and cycle to work schemes, or promoting healthy eating options in the office canteen. On the medical side, employers might do well to provide access to GP and physical wellbeing helplines, or regular health assessments to help identify risks early on.

‘Generation X’: aged between 38 and 53

Status hungry and hardworking, Gen-X workers may expect employment perks to match. In addition, caring for both children and elderly parents often creates emotional and financial stress among these employees. Taking these commitments into consideration, employers might provide convenient online or telephone access to GPs, to save employees’ time. Financial help such as childcare vouchers, in addition to flexible working provisions, can provide integral assistance with childcare or the care of elderly family members. Organisations might also benefit from offering support services that can provide information and advice on care options and providers

‘Millennials’: aged between 23 and 37

Millennials are generally most concerned about flexibility and wellbeing at work. Obesity, sleep deprivation and mental health issues are prevalent in this generation. Possible initiatives to promote health among these employees might include offering healthy eating options and running workshops on the importance of good sleeping patterns and how to improve them. Employers should make use of mobile apps to promote health awareness. It is also worth considering flexible hours and remote working, and providing access to mental health helplines to aid employees’ psychological wellbeing.

‘Generation Z’: aged between 18 and 22

These are the first true digital natives. Having grown up in the recession, this generation often craves security and stability. They may also be very health aware, and are the generation most likely to seek help for mental health issues. Organisations can cater to this group by providing access to physical activity, healthy nutrition and education on sleep and alcohol consumption, as well as introducing digital solutions to wellbeing, such as diet and exercise apps. Mindfulness sessions, resilience training and access to counselling can be an important step, as can financial wellbeing initiatives, such as education on budgeting, managing debts and pensions.

The most successful wellbeing programmes recognise the specific needs of today’s diverse workforce, whereas failure to do this can negatively impact engagement and productivity.

Helen Smith is commercial director and business sponsor for wellbeing strategy at Benenden