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Supporting the health of your multigenerational workforce

When it comes to health, one size doesn’t fit all so your diverse workforce can present a variety of challenges. Therefore, understanding the factors influencing health across different generations can help you unlock the right insight and support, meaning your people are healthier, more engaged with your organisation, and take less time off sick.

People’s health can have an impact on them in a wide variety of ways, which can also impact how, or if, they are able to do their job:

  • The number of people out of work due to back or neck problems rose by 31% between 2019 and 2022.

  • 57% of employees experienced poor mental health at their current employment.

  • In 2020-2021, 20% of people in the UK were living in poverty. Of these, 7.9 million were working age adults.

With such large numbers of people experiencing pain and poor health, employers need to think about what they can do to support their employees to make sure people are healthy, able to work to the best of their ability, and feel valued.

The answer isn’t the same support for everyone, and what’s right will depend on a variety of things, not least how old people are. Age is a huge factor in determining health, with different conditions affecting each in-work generation.

Identifying the four generations in work and their needs

To understand the different approaches to health, we have to start by understanding the four generations currently in work, in the UK. They have each had different technological and cultural influences as well as different health influences. The four generations are: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.

If we look at just one example of multigenerational health and wellbeing – grief and bereavement – the different needs of each generation become very clear:

  • Baby Boomers were born between 1945 and 1960 and grew up in the years following WWII. They were the first generation to benefit from the creation of the NHS and the welfare state from birth. Throughout their working lives, they have had to adapt from entirely analogue working practices through generations of digital innovation. Now Baby Boomers are facing their own mortality as their friends and spouses are more likely to die. They may also experience the death of an adult child.

  • Generation X were born between 1961 and 1980 and grew up through the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. They were coming of age as Thatcher became Prime Minister. Many remember working without PCs, but digital technology arrived early in their working lives. They are more likely to experience the death of a spouse, friend or non-spousal relative (especially siblings).

  • Millennials were born between 1981 and 1994 and entered the world of work when PCs were the norm, most people had mobile phones, and instant messaging and social media were connecting people like never before. They are the generation most likely to suffer the loss of a child, with one in every 250 pregnancies ending in stillbirth and one in five ending in miscarriage.

  • Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2009. They grew up even more immersed in technology than Millennials. With smartphones in their hands from early in their lives and social media a core part of their development, this generation has brought mental health issues out into the open. This generation may be experiencing their first bereavements. The average age at which we first lose someone we are close to is 20.

How employers can benefit from investing in employee health

Developing clear and consistent health policies that support employees can make a huge difference. Providing health-related training to managers and information about different health conditions and how to manage them can empower your people to find positive solutions, such as flexible working, accessing healthcare, and making reasonable adjustments to their role or workplace.

And this investment really pays off for employers. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) 2022 Health and wellbeing at work survey identified the top three benefits of employers increasing their focus on employee wellbeing:

  • A healthier and more inclusive culture.

  • Better work-life balance.

  • Better employee morale and engagement.

Employees that feel valued and supported are more likely to stay in work, less likely to go off long-term sick and more likely to be loyal to the organisation.

Guide to understanding the health needs of your multigenerational workforce

To learn more about the different generations, their health priorities and what employers can do to help, download our Multigenerational Heath Guide, Putting people first: Understanding the health needs of different generations in your workplace.

The guide uses the latest health research to define the physical, mental and financial health conditions experienced by the UK workforce and explores how they affect different generations. For each condition, the guide provides useful, actionable advice for employers on how they can best support their employees.

It is a useful tool to use as you develop your health and wellbeing strategy.

For more information on how to better look after your employees’ wellbeing, head over to our mental health workplace hub. You can also find out how to keep your workforce happy and healthy by signing up to our employee engagement newsletter.