Sit up straight: Millennials, safety and ergonomics

With more and more workers utilizing mobile technology or working from home, some of these practices can lead to poor ergonomic practices and related workers’ compensation claims. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Millennials are often regarded as being a “different” workforce. However, each generation has had its own quirks.

Boomers are seen as the long-haired, rebellious hippies of the ‘60s who wanted to challenge the status quo and sometimes still do. They’ve historically been the largest generation in the workforce, but that dominance no longer holds.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials (age 18-34) surpassed the baby boom generation in 2015 by having 75.3 million move into the workforce. Moreover, their numbers are expected to peak at 81.1 million in 2036.

New-world habits can be hard to break

have grown up in world where technology is pervasive and is moving more and more to mobile devices. The downside is mobile technology enables them to use their devices basically anywhere from the kitchen counter or dining table to in bed or on the couch while gaming or interacting on social media – yet rarely at a workstation. As a result, they’ve lived and developed poor, slouching posture ever since they were old enough to turn on the device. 

The fundamental concern with new millennial workers is that what may seem normal to them is in reality a high-risk posture that’s simply not good for them. We typically tell employees to let comfort be their guide, but this guideline doesn’t apply with millennials. Unfortunately, they are now accustomed to poor posture, and a new posture at the workplace can feel awkward. That’s why education on ergonomics becomes so essential.

Related: Harris Poll finds growing interest about insurance brands from millennials

But a “because I said so” attitude from the employer doesn’t work when trying to have millennials pay attention to their posture. They need information to understand and accept why it’s important. The usual risk factors for injury have not changed. It’s the omnipresent exposure to technology that’s new.

One of the big changes with millennials is the fadeout of old-school touch typing. Business typing, and even computer keyboarding, are not taught in schools as much anymore. That leads to a hunt-and-peck method, forcing users to type with their head down for extended periods of time, which can become painful.

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