The “over 55” crowd is taking over the workplace! By the year 2022, nearly 68 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds will still be working according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And as more and more Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are putting off retirement, the number of workers ages 25-54 is actually shrinking.
Why the shift? In part because many younger workers are staying in school longer, and the economy has forced many older workers to keep the paychecks coming in longer.
Bottom line: the workplace dynamic is changing. Is your business prepared to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by an aging workforce?
Older workers come with their own unique issues. So let’s start with a few of the challenges you should be aware of:
- Health issues. While older workers generally have fewer accidents, their injuries tend to be more severe, recovery times are often longer, and treatment and recovery can be complicated by preexisting conditions. Daily tasks can also be more challenging for older workers due to preexisting conditions, reduced range of motion, and normal deterioration from aging, while vision and hearing issues can affect everything from balance to driving.
- Chronic disease. Older workers are at significantly greater risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Obesity is also a major issue, with 72 percent of men and 67 percent of women being either overweight or obese according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That can mean higher healthcare bills and even higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, vascular disease, kidney disease, and arthritis. Being overweight also limits mobility and day-to-day activities, affects recovery times, and can impede vascular, soft tissue, and bone recovery
- Higher healthcare and workers comp claim costs. Since older workers are more susceptible to severe injury, are more apt to be overweight, and take longer to recover, their healthcare and workers’ compensation costs are generally higher. In fact, according to the Safety National Casualty Corporation, the average claim cost was 73 percent higher for workers older than 45.
On the other hand, older workers bring many attributes to the table, making them an asset to any business:
- Knowledge and experience
- A unique and valuable perspective
- Ability to mentor new hires and serve as team leaders
- Willingness to handle tough jobs
How will your business adapt?
Older workers are reshaping the workplace, and with increased focus and awareness, employers can take advantage of everything they have to offer while managing the associated costs. Here are a few ways to adapt:
- Be aware of fundamental differences in older workers such as their learning curves, communication preferences, problem-solving abilities, and motivations.
- Create a work culture that appreciates older generations for their valuable experience and insights.
- Make your workplace friendly to older workers by installing better lighting, slip resistant surfaces, and handrails, and help boost their productivity with flexible breaks and rest periods.
- Provide a wellness program that addresses the specific needs of older workers, along with regular workplace physicals.
- Be prepared for more Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requests. Older workers may need extra time off to recover from an injury or illness.
- Allow older workers recovering from an injury to take a leadership or mentoring role. This could be the ideal return to work solution, as it takes advantage of the older worker’s knowledge base while cutting down on lost time and workers’ comp costs.
Looking for more ways to keep your workers’ compensation claim costs under control? Download our free report, “How Much Could You Save by Self-Insuring Your Work Comp?”