4th September 2018
Thanks to growth in medical research and a greater understanding of what it takes to live a longer and healthier life, people are increasingly paying more attention to their diet and well-being than ever before. That’s great news for our average lifespan but, while many of us wouldn’t care to admit it, there is undeniable truth in the old cliché – we aren’t getting any younger. The ageing workforce is flourishing, so employers everywhere should know how to support their staff.
Making a Living
Retirement age in the UK is rapidly increasing, meaning that more and more people are working well into their 60s. In fact, 1.13 million people aged 65 and over were in employment between September and November 2014, according to Age UK’s 2018 factsheet. 2015 saw 12.4 million people living at State Pension Age (SPA) or above, with this figure expected to rise to 16.5 million by 2039. The number of older workers is inevitably going to rise accordingly.
With the abolition of the default retirement age in 2011, people in the UK now have the opportunity to work for longer if they so choose. However, for some, remaining in work falls down to necessity rather than choice. Just as the age of retirement continues to increase, so does the cost of living, and some people have no choice but to continue working in order to make ends meet – even if they feel they have reached the end of their working life.
For those who feel trapped in the working world, it is not unusual for resentment to kick in. The knock-on effect of which being a decline in morale and the risk of diminished productivity while at work.
Remaining in employment in later life can pose more challenges to older workers than just the possibility of not wanting to continue working. There are several other aspects of working life that the ageing workforce can find confronting.
Technology is an aspect of life that we have become overwhelmingly reliant on and, as such, it continues to advance at an unprecedented rate. In no more than a century, office equipment has evolved from the most archaic telephones and telegraphs to mobile phones, laptops and the world wide web – what’s more is that there is absolutely no escaping it.
This wall-to-wall availability of automation has hugely contributed to the nature of the twenty-first century work setting we know today; and it looks much different to the environment most older workers experienced at the beginning of their careers.
Despite many limitations that technology has the potential to address for older workers on a combination of both physical and cognitive levels, it does have the power the cause new problems for older users. Anything from design issues (i.e. text size, colour themes or sounds) to attitudinal barriers could have a negative impact, causing some older workers to find it difficult when it comes to the technology used in the majority of workplaces.
The high dependency that we have adopted when it comes to software and gadgets hasn’t only changed the way in which we work, but also the way we communicate with each other.
As people live and work longer, we now have a nice accumulation of varying generations all working side by side. However, growing up in vastly different times, there is bound to be a range of different values, work ethics and conflicting styles of communication.
Workplaces used to be much more formal. Now, they are casual and a lot more laid back and conversational. With the introduction of texting, emails and instant messaging platforms, there is a decreasing desire to return a phone call or have an in-person, face-to-face conversation. For the older generation of workers, this can promote an ere of disrespect or a feeling of being unappreciated.
Illness and disability is more widely recognised and respected these days, with more options and support available than ever before. However, the prevalence of disability rises with age. Only 16% of working age adults suffer with a chronic condition or impairment compared to 45% of people above State Pension Age.
There are many challenges linked to chronic illnesses which pose issues when it comes to the functional capacity and work ability of some older workers. Depending on the health implications, employees might struggle to use certain equipment, do physically demanding takes or work for too long without a break.
What you can do as an Employer
Having older talent among your staff can bring exciting and unique opportunities to your business – just think of the knowledge and experience that an older worker will have gained over the course of their career thus far. As a manager or HR person, it is crucial that you support your older employees to make sure that they are being allowed to get the most out of their work. You might even find yourself reaping the benefits that their age can offer along the way.
Ensuring that all employees feel appreciated, regardless of their age or ability, is one of the most important things you can do for your staff. While you want to make sure that you are supporting your ageing staff as best as you possibly can, trying not to single them out is vital to making them feel like they fit in.
Utilising the knowledge and know how of older staff members is a great advantage that you can use company wide – team older workers up with younger colleagues to give them the opportunity to share what they know. It works in reverse, too. With older and younger generations working together and learning from each other, you will not only have a wonderfully knowledgeable workforce, but you will also foster close and friendly working relationships between your staff. After all, who doesn’t want to work with people they know and get along with?
Retraining staff, particularly with regards to technology, is also as great way to support your older workers. If they are struggling with the systems you use or just need a refresher on how certain processes work, training will always be an investment. Retraining older workers might also give your staff the chance to change their role within your business to suit their health requirements if necessary.
At the end of the day, a happy and healthy workforce is a productive workforce so wellbeing should be a high priority for all of your staff. Introducing reasonable adjustments for older workers who might need them is the first step you should take here. Sit down with them and discuss what they feel they might need. Maybe send them to an Occupational Therapist to make sure you get it right first time. Also, consider offering those nearing or passed traditional retirement age to work reduced or flexible hours.
Why not look at implementing health checks for all staff? Nothing shows you care more than showing an interest in their health and wellbeing.
Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.