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Workplace Wellbeing

Age and the changing workforce: 3 tips to plan and prepare

Millennials1 recently overtook Generation X2 to become the largest share of the American workforce, according to Pew Research Center.

But for both generations – and increasingly for Baby Boomers3 – the option for early retirement is a distant, fading dream.

Dr. David Batman – Virgin Pulse’s International Occupational Health Adviser, and a Consultant Occupational Health Physician and a medical practitioner for over 40 years – said: “Changes in life expectancy and economic instability mean lots of older workers can’t afford to retire as early as they’d like.

“Young employees can also expect to work to age 75. So this raises two questions for employers: how do you recognise the longer working life and, with this in mind, how can you encourage employees to stay healthy?”

People managers, particularly those in HR, need to address these questions of shifting demographics. It’s a delicate balance; their plan of action needs to bridge the gap between the generations, but at the same time it needs to speak to each employee’s unique needs and circumstances.

It’s a big challenge – but an important one. Organisations that get it right will thrive on the mix of younger employees being mentored and guided by more mature members of the workforce.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider as you take on the changing workforce:

Assumptions at the door

It’s important to challenge pre-conceived ideas about employees from each age group. Older workers are often subject to stereotypes about their health, performance and engagement levels.4 However, 48% of Global Challenge participants are aged 41 or older5and our data consistently shows that this group are among the most productive and engaged people in their organisation.

Connect through health

There are many ways to bring the generations together. Connecting them through health is the most logical if the goal is to support a longer working life. Here is where you strike the balance between universal reach and age-specific needs. This doesn’t need to mean a fragmented and costly strategy, though. For example, the Global Challenge program addresses diet, nutrition, sleep and psychological wellbeing – providing one solution for many employees.

Get the age-specifics

The best way to avoid assumptions about what employees need is to find out what their age-specific challenges are. Are your up-and-coming Millennials exercising and eating well as they establish their career? Do employees with families need to address their sleep? Are mature workers monitoring the risks of conditions like high blood pressure and type II diabetes that increase with age? Diagnostic data is crucial to helping clients identify what’s needed. This knowledge should inform your strategy, too.

Want to engage workers from all demographics, locations and departments? Download our paper, What each generation wants when it comes to wellbeing.


1 Born between 1984 – 2004.

2 Born between 1965 – 1984

3 Born between 1946 – 1964

4 UnumProvident. Health and productivity in the ageing American workforce. UnumProvident Corporation.

5 2016 Global Challenge pre-event survey