Why older workers can’t yet call it a day

Why older workers can't yet call it a day (Image credit: Thinkstock/dubassy)

At a time when the retirement age is continually being pushed back, it appears as though an era of working into our elderly years will soon be upon us.

There are, as you might expect, pros and cons to this situation. A recent report by think tank the International Longevity Centre-UK suggested the country's gross domestic product could be boosted by as much as 12 per cent in 2037 compared with present day figures, if the trend of employing workers aged over 65 continues at its current rate.

For businesses, older members of staff often bring experience to an enterprise and their input is not to be discarded readily. That knowledge can also be passed on to younger colleagues to further enhance their development. These days, an employee in the 65-plus age bracket can certainly be considered an asset.

Similarly, older workers may benefit from staying in their jobs for longer to help keep their minds active. According to research by Skipton Building Society, the joy of retirement wears off, on average, just ten months after the person in question hangs up their shirt and tie. 

The main reason for this is they struggle to fill the void left by their working routine and, after initially enjoying a few months of leisure, start to become bored and frustrated with the lack of camaraderie and structure associated with life in the office.

The family way

However, the other side to the argument is that many people look forward to their retirement years as an opportunity to spend more time with their family. At this period of their lives, there are often grandchildren to think about and the chance to spend precious hours looking after them is something a proportion of the population would not want to pass up lightly.

Those plans are being put on hold with the retirement age creeping upwards. As a result, those experienced workers who are deemed to be such an asset to the company are likely to become unhappy and frustrated that an unaccommodating work-life balance is robbing them of time with the youngest members of their clan. 

Additionally, the commute is another aspect of their daily routine that can become more of a hindrance in later years. Overcrowded trains with insufficient seating is one issue, while the time the journey to and from the office adds to the hours in the working day.

With this in mind, employers need to come up with a solution to at least meet the older members of their workforce part-way. If they are unable to call time on their career for legislative reasons, then it is in a business' best interests to investigate how they can continue to get their optimum performance out of them, without burning them out.

A new lease of life

One possible answer could be to enable them to work in a more flexible manner. This can easily be achieved through remote working technology and services like free conference calling, which allows them to interact with colleagues and participate in meetings from home in the same manner as they would if they were in the office.

This can go a long way towards creating a situation that suits everyone. As far as employers are concerned, allowing older staff to spend more time at home not only keeps them happy but also reduces their risk of burnout, while employees can work around their family commitments.

It's a very similar approach adopted by companies wishing to retain the skills of key female members of staff who wish to take maternity leave. This shift in priorities can often put business leaders in a difficult position of having to run the risk of letting their most talented workers leave on a temporary basis, but with no guarantee of them coming back.

However, as we've touched upon in previous blogs, flexible working practices can be used to bridge the gap between the need for employees to achieve career satisfaction and their desire to cultivate a healthy family environment at home.

If current trends continue, the retirement age is only going to increase further, meaning any business that is looking to keep hold of its most talented personnel into their later years is going to have to start looking at how they can address the issues that will inevitably arise.

The tools are already available, it's just a case of taking the steps to implement the solution.