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Workplace wellness across generations

Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

For the first time in history, there’re five very different generations in the workplace, and how each of them responds to their health varies drastically. 

Millennials are bearing the brunt of label shaming. Older generations are calling them the ‘wellness generation’ (or ‘snowflake generation’), and often accuse them of using wellness as an excuse to avoid responsibilities or hard work. They’re frequently toted as being the only generation with so many issues in dire need of wellness programmes to survive. The question is, do they deserve it? Yes, because wellness is no longer narrowly defined as physical health alone. It now includes emotional, social, occupational and financial health. Where older generations have thrived, their offspring have struggled. 

Millennials may be in top physical shape, but their finances aren’t as healthy. Gen X is in debt, and is experiencing greater stress and pressure to step up, and Baby Boomers are close to retirement but are struggling with mental health issues that they refuse to seek help for. Companies must introduce a wellness programme that transcends generations, with a variety of inclusive activities to engage each employee. However, it can’t be done by thinking of employees as one blanket group. We look at how three generations deal with financial, occupational and mental health. 

Financial Health

Baby Boomers 

This generation needs to plan for long-term care costs, manage their investment for cash flow after retirement, and begin prioritising retirement savings over helping family members with university fees and other expenses. 

Gen X 

Gen Xers are struggling with paying off existing debts, establishing emergency funds, balancing saving for their children’s higher education and retirement, and arranging sufficient insurance and estate-planning protection. 

Millennials 

While they have the most time to start preparing for retirement, they’re concerned about where that money will come from. Few employers offer a pension plan or medical aid. Millennials are also frequently saddled with student loans

Occupational Health

Baby Boomers 

Baby Boomers tend to spend long hours at the office to tackle their responsibilities. While their commitment to their career means that they persevere through challenging situations, it often comes at the expense of personal relationships. 

Gen X 

Gen Xers are learning from the occupational mistakes of the work-centric Boomers. They value the separation of work and personal life and feel at liberty to change jobs to fulfil their desire for variety. They’re learning many skills due to job insecurity. 

Millennials 

Commitment to community service means millennials are looking to make an impact and instigate change with their work – but on their own, flexible schedule. They tend to experience higher levels of burnout and stress from job insecurity and toxic workplaces. 

Mental Health

Baby Boomers 

Often referred to as the bottled- up generation when it comes to mental health, they’re the most likely of all workers to delay or avoid seeking help. Most of this generation grew up with a limited and stigmatised understanding of mental illness. 

Gen X 

While more Gen Xers are talking about it, the attitudes of their parents are still deeply ingrained. As their parents didn’t recognise depression and anxiety as health conditions, viewing these as weaknesses, the majority of Gen X doesn’t feel comfortable with it. 

Millennials 

Millennials aren’t as healthy as people think. Depression and anxiety rates are on the rise due to loneliness and over-exertion. Many of them don’t see primary-care doctors and can’t afford medical aid. But at least they’re willing to talk about it and encourage the destigmatisation of it. 

How workplace wellness programmes help

Because we spend so much of our time at work, employers must foster an environment that prevents burnout, promotes employee development and encourages employee longevity. 

You can help your employees improve their financial health by offering them one-to-one financial-planning sessions with an advisor, or providing a financial helpline. Designated quiet areas or instructor-led meditation sessions help them recharge, and discussions about mental health should be encouraged. Perhaps a psychologist could visit your company, one day a week, for those who want to speak to a professional but can’t afford it. 

Offer flexible work hours with paid time off, and reward your employees for results and not the hours they’ve clocked. Regular biometric screenings will help your employees identify invisible health risks, such as high or low blood pressure, and high blood sugar and cholesterol, which will help them to prevent chronic conditions from escalating, or even developing in the first place. 

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