Prep for workplace changes as workforce matures

Employees who have been in the workforce for decades bring with them knowledge and experience that can benefit the company they work for. As the overall age of the U.S. workforce increases, employers may want to prepare for this demographic shift by instituting new work policies. They may want to implement ways to accommodate older employees to improve worker productivity and reduce safety incidents. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) revealed a new resource site to help employers address safety and health conditions linked with workers becoming older.

NIOSH, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), said 1 in 5 American workers will be 65 years old or more by 2015, and 1 in 4 in the workforce will be more than 55 years old by 2020.

There are many benefits to hiring older workers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said employers generally view older workers in a positive way.

“Prior studies revealed that employers report that older workers have greater knowledge of the job tasks they perform than their younger colleagues, willingly learn new tasks quickly, bring wisdom and resilience to work, and are able to keep up with the physical demands their jobs​ require,” the CDC said in a report.

NIOSH notes that older workers actually suffer from a fewer number of occupational injuries, which may be due to them having better knowledge of safety policies as seasoned veterans and because they are aware of their physical limitations.

How to improve the well-being of an older workforce
Employers may want to focus on how they can help ensure the well-being of these workers. While older workers reportedly have fewer injuries, employers may want to plan for these employees to take more time off from work if more mature staff members do experience injuries to allow them to heal more effectively.

To make workplaces more suitable and productive for older workers, NIOSH suggests employers offer these workers more flexibility in their job hours. Giving workers more control over their work schedules may reduce problems with absenteeism and presenteeism and improve productivity. They also may want to allow staff to perform tasks that allow them to work at their own pace and choose when they want to take breaks. This way, employers may reduce health risks posed to older employees and lower their healthcare and workers compensation costs.

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