Older workers are feeling more stressed and less appreciated than their younger colleagues, according to a new study by workplace consultants Peldon Rose.
The research1 found that 80% of over-55s suffer from (or have suffered from) workplace stress, and only 23% feel appreciated where they work.
Different attitudes to employee benefits
A failure to focus on benefits that appeal to older workers could be part of the problem, as the study revealed very different attitudes towards employee benefits between the oldest and youngest employees.
For example, more than 3 in 4 of under-25s surveyed said they think that social events are important for their wellbeing at work. But 56% of over-55s disagree, stating that they were the least important benefit on offer.
Gym memberships and other wellbeing benefits showed a similar degree of contrast: 63% of under-25s consider them important, while 39% of over-55s said they were the least important employee benefit.
An ageing workforce
These levels of dissatisfaction from older workers are bad news for both employees and employers, and may well be compounded by the fact that Britain’s workforce is ageing. As mentioned in our recent blog on workplace demographics, one third of Britain’s workforce will be aged over 50 by 20202. It’s increasingly clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to motivating and supporting employees is unsuitable.
A report from the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) on ‘Managing an age-diverse workforce’3 observed that “as work priorities vary across age groups there can be widely disparate values and interests… this causes friction when colleagues feel that others are focusing on their own interests.”
Further CIPD research4 suggested that many older workers have a greater focus on work-life balance and flexibility in their working arrangements. Being able to take additional unpaid leave was an attractive prospect to this demographic, who may well have fewer financial obligations than their younger counterparts. They’re more likely to have paid off their mortgage, and less likely to still have children living at home.
However, with stress amongst older workers on the increase, there are clearly specific factors that need addressing by employers.
Support with stress
It’s been increasingly noted that the upward curve of life expectancy over the past 30 years5 means more and more employees will have elderly parents whom they may need to help care for. Providing that care can be stressful, and may well have an impact on their wellbeing at work. It’s important that employers can take this into account and look at how they’re supporting their older workers.
One possible solution is AgeingWorks™, a tool from Unum which is designed to help employees recognise and manage issues associated with ageing. It also considers the needs of those with ageing family members.
Of course, there is more behind the stress of older workers than family responsibilities. We’ve written before about the importance of finding out what matters to your own employees when creating a benefit and reward strategy, and how ensuring different demographics are taken into account is part of that process.
It’s important for employers to find out the challenges specific to their own employees. Whatever solutions are considered, it’s clear that age can’t be ignored as a factor in selecting effective employee benefits.
1 Health Insurance Daily (2017), “Older workers ‘more stressed than younger colleagues’”
2 IES (2017), Dementia Friendly Workplaces, p1
3 CIPD (2015), Managing an age-diverse workforce, p4
4 CIPD (2015), Managing an ageing workforce, p8, 9
5 ONS (2015), National Life Tables: UK