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Baby boomers require physical support more than mental support in the workplace

Although employers realise that baby boomers are not without stress and anxiety, their main concern for this cohort of employees is physical health and wellbeing not mental health, according to research from GRiD, the industry body for the group risk protection sector.

Employers believe that baby boomers – the generation born from 1946 to 1964 (aged 57-75) – have the least amount of stress and anxiety relating to their work life, home life and their finances but employers have more concerns regarding their physical health and fitness:

  • 42% of employers say their biggest concern for their mature employees is that they are living with long-term chronic illness or health concerns such as diabetes
  • The second biggest concern for employers (at 37%) is regarding a general lack of fitness caused by a non-active lifestyle / sedentary working
  • 31% of employers have concerns around ill-health relating to lifestyle such as obesity, smoking and alcohol-dependence for their baby boomer staff

Driven by increased longevity, a rise in the state pension age, shrinking wealth, and more recently, the home-working revolution, the proportion of over 50s in work has been increasing steadily over decades.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said“With more over-50s in the workplace than ever before, and the potential for further age range expansion in the workforce, it is inevitable that employers will need to prepare to support an increasingly diverse range of physical and mental health issues. Improving mental health support has been front and centre for many organisations over the past few years but this research is a useful reminder that physical health support is needed by many throughout their working life and can be of particular concern to staff as they get older.”

Having worked for many years within an industry or specific field, mature employees bring such a wealth of experience in to the workplace as well as a loyalty and reliability, which explains why some employers are actively recruiting over 50s – not simply just as part of a diversity and inclusion strategy. However, if this is not complemented with the provision of support for physical health and wellbeing, many organisations risk losing their baby boomers through deteriorating physical health.

Many employee benefits, including group risk (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness) have extra supportive benefits built in to them which mean employers can access specific help for their staff without having to pay any additional costs. Often these will include doctor- or nurse-led support services which can help diagnose a problem at an early stage, meaning staff can receive early intervention support which could prevent an illness or health concern becoming more serious. Support can also include access to apps to measure, monitor and improve health and fitness; physio, virtual GPs, tailored help for chronic conditions, second medical opinion: all benefits that can be of particular benefit to older staff.

Moxham continued: “It’s not only important for culture and reputation but a legal requirement that employers treat all employees with equity – offering them the same financial and health benefits, no matter what their age is. Employers are probably correct in their thinking that the physical aspects of ill-health become more pressing as employees age but employers should ensure that staff of all ages can access high-quality, comprehensive support for both physical and mental health conditions at all stages of their careers.”