Making occupational health and wellbeing a focus for all ages

multi-generational-workplace

With occupational health under intense pressure during the pandemic, it makes sense for practitioners to use whatever help they can – including the tools and services that come with group risk insurance products, argues Katharine Moxham. Such a collaborative approach can also help to ensure health and wellbeing support is truly multi-generational.

Recent research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk insurance sector, has highlighted that employers are, by and large, more concerned about the health and wellbeing of baby boomers than they are about any other generation in the workplace.

Although our research was carried out prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it still holds true as the pandemic has, if anything, brought additional challenges to people’s lives and served to exacerbate others.

About the author

Katharine Moxham is spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD)

In our survey, employers were asked to compare how six different key areas of health and wellbeing affect four different generations of their staff. Our findings showed that:

  • Baby boomers’ general lack of fitness caused by a non-active lifestyle and sedentary working was the biggest worry for employers (32%). However, their concerns for Generation X (29%) and millennials (30%) were not far behind. By comparison, only 23% of employers had concerns for Generation Z in this area.
  • Living with long-term chronic illness or health conditions (such as diabetes) was the issue that caused employers the second most concern for baby boomers (31%). Employers also had some concerns for Generation X (28%) and millennials (27%). Employers did not see long-term chronic illness as such a concern for Generation Z (21%).
  • Ill health related to lifestyle, such as obesity, smoking and alcohol dependence, was the next most pressing concern for employers about their baby boomer employees (30%). Around a quarter of employers (27%) were worried about this for their Generation X employees, 26% for millennial employees and 18% for their Generation Z employees.

Our research also suggested that baby boomers’ mental health was just as much a concern as their physical health for employers.

  • Stress and anxiety relating to home life, such as caring responsibilities and managing difficult relationships, was a concern of employers for the baby boomer generation (26%). This was less so for Generation X (24%), millennials (20%) and Generation Z (17%).
  • Stress and anxiety related to work, such as pressures of overwork, uncertainty of future, and so on, worried employers of baby boomers the most (25%). Generation X was a concern for 23% of employers, reducing to 17% for millennials and 16% for Generation Z.
  • Stress and anxiety related to finances, money and debt also weighed heavily on the minds of employers for their baby boomer staff (24%). This was followed by Generation X (22%), millennials (13%) and Generation Z (8%).

Lessons for occupational health

So, what can we extrapolate from all this? Some of our findings might be expected but others are perhaps a little more surprising, such as, for example, baby boomers being top of the worry list for employers in terms of stress and anxiety around finances and debt.

What this goes to show is that it doesn’t do to second-guess these things. Whilst the baby boomer generation is the one employers have indicated they have the most concern for, it is important to be ensuring all generations are supported. And this needs to be across all areas of wellbeing (in other words, financial, physical, social and emotional), as no one can predict the twists and turns someone’s life might take.

Our focus at GRiD is, of course, group risk products. Such products, such as employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness, have long included help and support intended for daily use.

But the important message here for occupational health, we’d argue, is to recognise the value and assistance they can offer for employers wrestling with how best to support the health and wellbeing of all their staff, every generation, in these difficult times.

For example, a group income protection policy will normally come with a raft of embedded support for employers, HR, line managers and employees alike. So, not only will it pay a continued income to an employee on long-term sick leave, it will provide other help too.

This can include, for example, access to an Employee Assistance Programme, functional capacity and workstation assessments, access to a second medical opinion service, access to counselling, physiotherapy or even treatment funded by the provider, health and wellbeing apps, a 24/7 GP service and more.

Vocational rehabilitation support

In particular, the vocational rehabilitation expertise that comes with a group income protection policy can work extremely well alongside occupational health – and may even be able to take some of the pressure off practitioners who are, of course, very hard-pressed right now.

Vocational rehabilitation specialists work closely with employers, line managers and individuals in helping to keep people in the workplace or back to work in a sustainable way where an absence is ongoing.

Our overall message, therefore? Employers will find themselves well-served when they make the effort to work in a tripartite relationship with their OH practitioner and group risk provider.

Not only that, but their employees will gain the best of both worlds. So it’s very much a win-win-win formula for health and wellbeing.

  • The GRiD research was undertaken by Opinium among 500 HR decision-makers between January 27-31, 2020. It defined the age ranges of each generation as: Generation Z, 18-24 years; Millennials/Generation Y, 25-43; Generation X, 44-55; * Baby boomers, 56-74.
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