Strategies for Older Workers & Age-Friendly Workplaces

Ergonomics Programs: Eliminate or modify exposures to hazards to protect older workers and younger workers as they age. Design work tasks and workstations to meet changing physical needs and to prevent injury and disability.  Reduce highly repetitive tasks, reduce static and stressful postures, substitute mechanical for manual strength, and limit work above shoulder and below knee to avoid aggravating any chronic joint conditions that are more likely to be present.  Consider alternative office equipment, tools and processes.

Good Safety Practices: Clear hazards, spills and clutter to prevent slips, trips and falls. Make sure employees wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Job Demand Analysis: Evaluate job demands and tasks and match them to employees’ physical capabilities.

Peer-to-Peer Training/Buddy System: Pair different generations together. Allow older workers to mentor and train younger workers. Younger workers can help with more physical tasks and older workers can share knowledge to newer employees.

Phased Retirement Plans: Offer phased retirement plans with options to continue working with reduced hours, less demanding tasks, increased personal satisfaction or more leisure time to enjoy life.

Physical Ability Testing & Screenings: Work with occupational medical nurses and doctors to test for job specific tasks like lifting, carrying, balance, vision, hearing, strength, endurance or postural demands like kneeling, squatting, stooping, prolonged sitting/standing. Work with medical community to offer biometric screenings.

Physical Work Environment: Make sure bathroom, break room and parking lot are accessible. Minimize noise, clutter and other hazards. Ensure optimal lighting, appropriate seating and flooring. Install handrails, slip resistant walking surfaces, repair uneven or wet floors, place task lights to reduce shadows, increase light intensity or color contrast between stairs and curbs.

Prevent Prolonged Sitting: Encourage movement and frequent breaks and consider sit/stand workstations for those who are sedentary most of the day. Offer on-site opportunities for physical activity and promote low-cost options in the community.

Promote Flexible Work Arrangements: This may include flexible work hours (reduced hours, job sharing, phased retirement, part-year); work schedule (compressed work weeks, flex schedule); career (reduced responsibilities, job change/occupation shift, phased retirement); location (remote worker, work from home, work from more than one location); employment relationships (temporary work, project work, consultant); or benefits (phased retirement, cafeteria plan).

Resources: Provide access to information and resources available to help maintain health and productivity throughout the lifespan.

Return to Work: Offer more rest breaks, less repetitive tasks, more self-paced work, avoidance of static posture, better lighting, less glare and more adjustable seating.

Show Respect: Making sure employees feel respected and valued is reportedly the most important human resource practice that makes older workers want to stay.

Supervisor Training: Require aging workforce management skills training for supervisors. Include a focus on the most effective ways to manage a multigenerational workplace.

Supportive Work Environments: Offer alternative job designs, flexible hours, job sharing, telecommuting or phased retirement plans.

Training Initiatives & Opportunities: Provide opportunities to maintain or learn new skills (keep skills and knowledge up to date and in line with younger workers); Provide multiple, shorter sessions with mixed training content that links new learning to current work. Types to consider include task-specific, general ergonomics, postural awareness, age awareness and wellness.

Wellness and Comprehensive Health Promotion Programs: Focus on education and prevention. Offer health risk assessments, screenings and coaching. Promote exercise to improve balance and psychological/emotional well-being. Encourage resistance training to enhance strength and limit risk of osteoporosis and fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. Consider topics such as fall prevention, arthritis and hypertension. Accommodate medical self-care in the workplace and time away for health visits. Include major components of a comprehensive wellness program.

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