The wisdom of embracing a compassionate and tech-savvy approach

As workers in the U.S. put off retirement longer than their predecessors, the segment of the workforce that is over the age of 55 continues to grow.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the percentage of workers over the age of 55 grew by nearly 50 percent from 2004 to 2014, and that cohort is projected to grow faster than the labor force as a whole over the next ten years.

The group currently entering that phase of their careers, Baby Boomers, are now roughly between the ages of 50 and 70. The generation that follows, Generation X, currently aged roughly late 30s to early 50s, is also expected to continue working past the age of traditional retirement.

With an increase in older employees, businesses can expect the prevalence of ailments and chronic diseases to rise. This has big implications for businesses in the areas of:

  • Workforce productivity
  • Health care costs
  • Absenteeism
  • Short-term disability claims
  • Staff turnover
  • Retention of experienced workers

Employers who take a proactive, supportive approach to their employees’ health challenges can gain competitive advantages in these areas. They will see reduced absenteeism, disability claims, and health care costs, plus increased productivity and retention of their most experienced workers.

Not one-size-fits-all

Supporting employees through health challenges calls for employee-employer collaborating with the goal to develop individualized plans to meet each employee’s needs. Employers can implement company-wide policies around health management, but it is a personalized approach to managing each employees’ ailments that will keep workers satisfied and productive in their jobs.

Build trust

Employees are rightly concerned about their privacy when sharing the details of their health issues with employers. It is important to remember that retaining an employer-sponsored health insurance plan may be more important to chronic disease sufferers than it is to younger, healthier workers. There may be trepidation about revealing health issues an employer could infer as having a negative effect on reliability or performance.

Companies can foster an atmosphere in which health concern revelations are met with confidentiality, compassion, and support.


The impact of illness on an employee’s productivity can be mitigated when an employer has an open mind about solutions and accomodations.

Can the employee’s role with the company be modified to minimize the effect of the illness? Would the employee be productive in a partial or full-time remote working arrangement that allows them to get treatment more conveniently? Can modifications be made to their work station or schedule to help them manage symptoms or receive treatment during the work day?

There are a variety of flexible work arrangements that can meet the needs of both the employee and the employer.

Resource sharing and tech education

Employers that are well-versed in healthcare technology – the way symptoms and diseases are managed with wearable technology and mobile applications – have a lot to offer employees with health challenges.

Employees introduced to our Return to Health platform are given a clear path from their symptoms to making informed, evidence-based decisions about their treatment options. The platform gives employees and employers reliable guidance on treatment costs and recovery timeframes.

Encouraging employees to use – and training them on – the patient portal offered by your health network is another step toward cost transparency and treatment follow-through.

Also, introducing employees dealing with chronic diseases to technology that helps them manage symptoms is a win-win. Disease management apps are user-friendly and tailored to specific diseases. For example, Livongo is an internet-connected blood sugar meter for diabetes patients that includes personalized insights and coaching support. Cohero is a medication tracker and notification system for respiratory health that detects how open an asthma patient’s lungs are and tracks that data over time.

Employers have a lot to gain by offering compassion, support, resources, and education to employees at all levels of health. Embracing the reality of employee health challenges will benefit both employees and employers.

Let us know what you think.

Thank you,

Max Kahn