From February 2020 to May 2020, the number of employed American workers over the age of 65 dropped by 16.6%.
That totals to a loss of 1.9 million elderly employees in just three months.
The reason for this loss is clear.
People over the age of 65 are considered high risk for COVID. Many of these employees no longer felt safe working during the pandemic and quit, and others were laid off.
1.9 million workers is a whole hell of a lot of people, and not everyone was prepared to retire in 2020.
Unfortunately, the pandemic doesn’t look like it’s going to be over any time soon, and unemployment checks are set to end next month.
So how do we help our elderly employees get back to work safely?
There are 5 steps each business owner must take.
1. Communicate clearly about workplace changes
Not every person over 65 years of age is worried about COVID-19, and some are even excited to return to work. This is not the case for everyone, however, and to play it safe you’ll need to listen to the concerns of all your employees and clearly communicate what you’re doing to protect them.
It’s important to stay up to date with the current CDC guidelines and remind your employees of these regulations as well. Placing posters and reminders about handwashing and mask-wearing around the workplace is the best way to keep these recommendations at the forefront of their minds.
Your workplace has drastically changed since March of 2020. To put everyone at ease, you should consider “reboarding” your employees as they return to work. This will help brief them on the new rules and safety measures that have been put into place.
If you haven’t implemented a temperature-screening kiosk yet, you’ll want to invest in one. This is a tangible and easy way to show your elderly employees that you value their health and are doing everything in your power to keep them safe.
If you’re struggling to decide which option is best for your workplace, consider sending out a poll to your employees. Their feedback is essential in keeping your business safe.
2. Offer options for all employees
Offering special options just for high-risk or older employees could land you in a whole heap of trouble. That being said, it’s essential that you offer all of your employees the same options when it comes to working remotely. Telework should be offered based on job descriptions, not age. If you don’t offer the same alternatives for everyone, you may find yourself in a discrimination lawsuit.
3. Make sure you’re ADEA-compliant
If you must create a policy for your older workers, you’ll have to abide by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). If you operate a labor organization or employment agency, or you’re a local/state government or private employer with 20+ employees, you must comply.
This act essentially prohibits the disparate impact from harming older workers more than younger workers. Employers must be able to prove that their policy is based on a reasonable factor other than age.
4. Encourage everyone to voice their concerns
We’re all going through a hard time right now, and one of the best ways to overcome it is by talking about it.
Your workplace should be one that your employees feel comfortable speaking up in. Whether it be voicing their concerns about your COVID policies or expressing grievances about the pandemic in general, everyone should feel safe stating what’s on their minds.
Everyone has different needs, and the better your employees understand each other and respect those needs, the more efficient they’ll be.
5. Make opportunities for connection
If you do decide to allow your older employees to work from home, it’s important to keep them all connected. Working remotely could result in unintended blows to their career progression, such as taking away face time with peers and managers who might have valuable insight on their performance reviews.
Daily check-ins, like Zoom meetings/lunches with all of your remote and in-office employees, are key to keeping everyone in the loop and making opportunities for connection. These meetings are ideal for allowing everyone to stay in touch and up-to-date with the latest company changes, even if they’re working from home. They can even be held outdoors to keep in-office employees safe.
It’s safe to say that this pandemic has affected everyone on the planet–especially our elderly employees. The least we can do is try harder to keep them safe. By following these 5 tips, we can create a better workplace for everyone involved.