Canada’s workforce is ageing, and with ageing comes disability, including diminished hearing, vision, arthritic conditions, and chronic pain. Smart organizations will foresee the productivity issues associated with these conditions and take countermeasures to ensure their people can continue to contribute at peak performance.
With the exception of Will Smith and Jackie Chan, we’re all getting older. In the mid-1990s the labour force participation rate of Canadians 55 and over was 23 per cent. In 2015 it had ballooned to 37 per cent. This is the result of the ageing of the baby boom generation and greater participation of older workers in the labour force.
What’s this mean for employers? It’s simple. If you develop a strategy to accommodate disabilities and create a culture that makes disclosure of disability easy and without stigma, your organization will have a competitive advantage.
There are a number of ways to accommodate age-related disabilities and maintain productivity.
A well-designed workplace with the appropriate workstations, lighting, heating and other ergonomics is a good place to start, and benefits everyone in your workplace. Flexible work arrangements are also a boon to everyone. Job sharing, flexible hours, part time positions, the option to work from home and other innovative schedules can help workers achieve better productivity and work-life balance.
Make sure training programs help older workers maintain their knowledge and also enable them to pass it on to the next generation. Mentorship is a cost-effective way of building a smarter workforce with greater camaraderie.
As your workforce ages, consider updating your benefits program. Workplace wellness programs that give workers access to Employee Assistance, fitness, and nutrition counselling can pay dividends.
Perhaps you have an organization with a relatively low median age. Should you be concerned with an accommodation strategy? The data says yes.
The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that apart from an overall decrease in smoking rates, younger age groups have less healthy behaviours and less healthy weights and are living longer with chronic diseases and mental health concerns than previous generations. (http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2014/chang-eng.php).
So no matter how you look at it, a strategy for disability accommodation should be a vital document for any organization that wishes to get the most from its workforce.