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Older workers and the future of the workplace

Mark Goode

With ongoing advances in lifestyle, healthcare and technology, people are living longer. The ONS predicts that by 2041, there will be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years or over, taking the UK’s total population of over 65’s to 20.4 million or 26.5% of the projected population. There will also be a decline in the number of people aged 20-34. Around the world, retirement age has been rising for the past two decades – people currently in their 20s are likely to be working until their late 70s/early 80s. These demographic changes will have consequences across all of society, including the workplace.

Employers need to prepare themselves for older workers and enable those who want to work longer. The government – which abolished the national default retirement age in 2011 – believes that the over 50s are a major untapped resource, with a wealth of experience and talent to offer, and could play a vital role in the future growth of individual businesses and the wider economy, too.

There are three distinct advantages that older employees bring to the workplace. 1. Older employees undoubtedly bring talent and experience and are less likely to leave than younger staff. 2. Customers are also aging – having a workforce that understands its audience will help you to stay relevant and add insight to your customer service. 3. An age diverse team can share knowledge, perspective and ideas.

Flexibility and opportunities

Age discrimination and unconscious bias are wide spread problems in the UK and all employers need to overcome this. There are several ways you can support older workers in your workplace:

  • Flexible working appeals to employees of all generations, including older workers who may be looking for workplace flexibility, such as working from home, career flexibility - like reduced responsibility or job change - and workday flexibility, which may include reduced hours or job sharing.
  • Employers that are proactive about providing a supportive work environment will be able to keep workers for longer. Your office should appeal to every generation, so whether it’s standing desks or large monitors for vision loss, look at what you need to supply your employees to keep them happy, healthy and productive.
  • Find ways for older workers to share their knowledge, whether it’s a mentoring programme or data repository. 

It’s vital that businesses start adapting now to the changing face of the workforce to encourage and enable those who want to work longer. The concept of retirement and ageing in the workforce must move with the times as our population demographics change.

Read our related blog: 5 trends to look out for in diversity and inclusion in 2019

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