Even prior to the covid-19 pandemic, businesses faced a variety of workforce challenges. Maintaining communication across departments, encouraging team cohesion and integrating new technologies all posed their own unique difficulties. Now businesses must contend with the added challenge of managing their teams from home. No wonder so many businesses are concerned for the future.
But the covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on another, often ignored issue; the changing needs of an ageing workforce. As people live and stay in work longer, businesses must look for new ways to encourage and include them. As shelter in place rules are relaxed across the world, we have a unique opportunity to address this challenge.
Ageing populations, challenges and opportunities
In the UK, there are nearly 12 million people aged 65 and above, according to Age UK. By 2030, one in five people in the UK (21.8%) will be aged 65 or over, 6.8% will be aged 75+ and 3.2% will be aged 85+. The 85+ age group is also the fastest growing – it’s set to double to 3.2 million by mid-2041 and treble by 2066.
As the population ages, more people are choosing to work past retirement age. Some work simply because they want to, while others aren’t yet in a position financially to retire. The changing demographics – and the additional requirements this entails – can pose serious challenges to team leaders.
But older team members play a vital role in your workforce, and, as Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) points out, “A workplace with Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation offers a unique opportunity for varied perspectives and approaches to day-to-day work.”
Retain talent with flexibility for ageing employees
Reduced mobility can make getting into the office challenging, but that doesn’t mean these people are of less value to your team. Sadly, a 2018 study by ProPublica and the Urban Institute revealed that re-entering the workforce is significantly harder for over 50s. The study identified several factors for this, including decreased mobility and family obligations.
But shutting out experienced workers is a loss for everyone. As the CIPD pointed out in their report, ‘Insights into managing an age-diverse workforce’, by letting go of talented team members, businesses run the risk of losing specialist knowledge and insights.
New generations of workers bring their own valuable skills, but older team members bring something else; experience. Taking your team Anywhere allows older members to contribute without demanding their daily presence in the office.
Offering flexible work could also have an unintended benefit for both businesses and employees. In the post-covid-19 office, social distancing rules will put a premium on space. Allowing team members to work from home will go some way to alleviating new space requirements.
Businesses should also consider the increased risk of illness among certain members of staff. In cases where an employee is particularly at risk, a flexible work arrangement can be a lifeline.
However, it’s important to ensure they maintain a connection to their office-bound colleagues. Regular contact with other team members (essential to any business) ensures working Anywhere is an inclusive, shared experience.