How can we support a multigenerational workforce?

Alice Budd has workplace wellbeing advice for a workforce of all ages. 

As the retirement age is rising, the workplace is becoming increasingly multigenerational. This is hugely beneficial to businesses, but it raises health concerns for the older workforce. Ironically, this could be the very problem that prevents over-50s from prolonging their working lives.

The latest health research from Aviva’s ‘Real Retirement report has revealed that almost half (48%) of people now expect to work beyond the age of 65. Nearly a quarter (23%) think they’ll be working past 70 and 13% don’t expect to retire at all [1].

The study also revealed that more than five million workers over the age of 50 are concerned that issues with their health might prevent them from continuing to work. Over half (55%) fear that it could become detrimental to their health, with 13% already saying that this is already a problem for them.

Support for the older generation of workers is essential to maintaining a happy and healthy work ethos.

The problem with office work

The truth is that spending 35+ hours a week sat at a desk is unforgiving to your body, especially for the older workforce. Studies show that it’s causing as many deaths as smoking, and is linked to all kinds of health problems, including heart disease, cancer, back pain and obesity.

Support for the older generation of workers is essential to maintaining a happy and healthy work ethos. But only 17% of over-50 workers have access to wellbeing advice and workplace initiatives to support them in their careers.

What do over 50s want from their workplace?

Results showed that a ‘positive workplace culture’ was the most important factor for over-50s, with 47% of respondents valuing this the most. A third (33%) said reduced working hours, part-time work or job sharing would be most helpful, however, only 11% said they felt they could negotiate for flexible working arrangements.

With this in mind, here’s some small, simple steps to help you beat the office blues and get healthy at your desk.

Five tips for staying healthy at your desk

Take a break

Take a break every half hour or so and just move about, even if it’s just walking over to the photocopier, getting up from your desk to give your body and mind a short break can make all the difference. Moving about gets your blood flowing, gives you energy and fires up creativity, whilst also reducing stress, improving concentration and productivity.

Reenergise with exercise

Take the stairs instead of the escalator, have a meeting while you walk and replace phone calls with face-to-face meetings. Take advantage of your lunch break to do activities you wouldn’t normally have time for: get outside for a walk, join a sports club or yoga class, workout at the gym, or simply run some errands.

This will help focus your mind and reenergise your body, so you’re able to take on anything back at your desk.

Do some deskercise

Yes, ‘deskercise’ is now a thing. It’s particularly useful for the older workforce to help prevent ageing and keep the body strong and supple. A good place to start is with a side twist, touching your toes, or the following seated stretches:

  • Neck stretch: Face forward and sit tall. Try to touch your right shoulder with your right ear without tensing or hunching the shoulders. Hold, and return head upright. Repeat on the other side.
  • Spinal stretch: Sit tall and place your hands on your lower back. Push your hips forward and your shoulders back to arch your spine as you look up. Hold, and then relax.
  • Arm stretch: Reach your arms up towards the ceiling. Bring your left wrist back to touch your left shoulder, and touch the elbow with your right hand, above your head. Hold, and repeat on the other side.

Hydrate to medicate

Many of us fall into the trap of relying on countless cups of coffee to get us through our workload. Although coffee has its benefits, it can easily become a replacement for water in the office, leading to dehydration. why not try switching up energy drinks with herbal teas and water?


Keeping hydrated helps your brain perform better whilst also promoting cardiovascular health, helping muscle and joints work better, keeping skin supple, and cleansing the body inside and out.

Find your sitting sweet spot

Sitting at a computer with bad posture can seriously damage your body in the long-term. Here’s some tips to ensure you’re sitting correctly:

  • Adjust your chair so that knees are slightly lower than hips to support your back.
  • Rest your feet flat on the floor and avoid crossing your legs to strengthen posture. Use a footrest, if necessary.
  • Keep your mouse as close as possible to your body to prevent repetitive strain injuries. Rest arms by your sides with elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor to create an L-shape.
  • Place your screen at eye level about an arm’s length away to avoid eye and neck strain. Your screen should be as glare-free as possible, so adjust positioning to avoid reflections [4].

Following these recommendations will enhance productivity, reduce stress and prevent the onset of disease. In conjunction with a healthy work diet, this can help improve overall wellbeing for the older workforce, and even prolong working life.


About the author

Alice Budd is a freelance writer with an interest in health and wellbeing in the workplace.


[1] The Real Retirement Report is designed and produced by Aviva in consultation with ICM Research and Instinctif Partners. The Real Retirement tracking series has been running since 2010 and totals 29,568 interviews among the population over the age of 55 years, including 1,177 in July 2017 for the latest wave of tracking data (Q2 2017).

This edition examines data from 3,327 UK adults aged 50 and over, of whom 1,829 are still working.


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