Creating Ergonomic Well-being for Millennials

In 2017, Millennials, also known as Generation Y or Gen Y (people born from 1981 to 1996), made up more than a third of the entire US workforce, surpassing the number of baby boomers in the US population, according to Pew Research.  By 2033, they estimate that the US population will consist of nearly 75 million Millennials. 

Millennials are the first generation to grow up in a society centered around technology.  And while technology has contributed to innovation, it has also become central to nearly every aspect of life, including work, education, and personal.  In a world where almost every need can be met with a click or a tap, and communication becomes more virtual and electronic, more and more time is dedicated to using technology. 

Companies can leverage Gen Y’s proficiency with technology, but that expertise may come with a potential downside for employers.  The extensive use of smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and laptops has resulted in a pool of employees who have spent years staring down at screens and sitting in awkward, static positions.  Ergonomic principles suggest, and studies confirm, that long-term exposure to awkward positions and bad postures may create musculoskeletal damage. 

To introduce strong safety and ergonomic protocols for Gen Y, we offer the following:

Steps to Creating Ergonomics Well-being for Millennials

  1. Start with an onboarding process that includes an ergonomic assessment to ensure that workstations are properly designed for each new employee. 
  2. Make a selection of ergonomically designed, and company-approved equipment available, including chairs, keyboards, and mouse devices that can meet each person’s unique needs. 
  3. Conduct additional assessments at the 30-day mark and again after six months.  These follow-up assessments can address changes made by employees based on their comfort and needs as they learn more about how to protect their bodies and what their job entails.
  4. Follow the first and subsequent assessments with an education that stresses good posture and regular, active breaks. 
  5. Teach employees about ergonomics, proper workstation design, and ways to protect their bodies. 
  6. Reinforce that the same types of injuries can occur from activities outside work hours and that prevention includes allowing for recovery time.  This education can help new employees to participate in the follow-up assessments more knowledgeably to get the most out of those reviews.
  7. Incorporate ergonomic principles into wellness programs.  Because Gen Y is used to working from screens wherever they are, employers cannot rely on them to identify their discomfort.  They have to be taught about proper posture and trained to participate in activities that can help to prevent injuries.
  8. Review the importance of frequent/micro-breaks.

By making ergonomics part of wellness, these activities can be embedded into policies, procedures, and company culture.  Encourage employees to be proactive about their comfort.  Have a culture that pushes employees to take breaks.  Use apps and technology to remind them to periodically stretch and look away from their screen to allow their bodies to recover from their work. Encourage movement by enabling employees to take their breaks outside on nice days.  The extra investment in time and training plus encouraging breaks may sound counterintuitive, but preventing injury pays off in the long run with both loyal, long-term employees and reduced injury costs.