Older employees are at risk of being marginalised in the workplace according to a survey of office workers from workplace consultants, Peldon Rose, which reveals big differences in the wellbeing, attitudes and motivations of the workplace’s oldest and youngest employees.
The over 50s now account for more than 30% of the UK’s working population (9.4million people), but according to the research older workers are the least content of all employees with less than a quarter (23%) of the 55+ age group feeling appreciated by their company and 80% suffering from or having suffered from workplace stress.
In contrast, the workplace’s newest recruits, the under 25 year olds, are the office’s most positive employees with over half (55%) feeling appreciated by their company and 60% – the lowest of all age groups – suffering or having suffered from workplace stress.
Peldon Rose warns that businesses are creating a ‘forgotten generation’ of older workers who, despite their experience and knowledge, do not feel their voice is being heard at work – less than a fifth (17%) of over 55s believe that their company values their opinion on the workplace, compared with over a third (37%) of the under 25s.
The oldest and youngest employees also have different priorities and motivations, presenting clear challenges to businesses seeking to ensure the wellbeing and happiness of all their employees. While over three-quarters (76%) of the under 25s think social events and wellbeing packages such as gym memberships (63%) are important for supporting their wellbeing at work, the 55+ age group consider social events (56%) and wellbeing packages (39%) as the least important workplace benefits. In addition, two-fifths (42%) of under 25s think social and communal areas in the workplace are very valuable, but only a quarter (24%) of the over 55s believe the same.
Fortunately, the survey also reveals some important similarities between what the generations require and want from their office environment, which businesses should focus on rather than prioritising one age group’s needs over another. Currently only a minority of all employees, under a fifth (18%) of the 55+ age group and a third (35%) of the 21-25 age group, believe their office environment has a positive effect on their wellbeing and mental health, suggesting that even small changes to the office environment could have a big impact across the generations.
Below, Peldon Rose reveals the five key workplace improvements that companies should consider to boost the wellbeing, happiness and productivity of staff at all stages of their working lives:
- Natural light: the most effective way to boost mental wellbeing across the generations is to increase exposure to natural light in the workplace; 87% of the over 55s and 83% of the under 25s state exposure to natural light is important in supporting their mental health and wellbeing at work, yet only 56% of 55+ year olds and 63% of under 25s have exposure to natural light sources within their working environment.
- Inclusivity: Companies are failing to meaningfully engage with their employees. Despite spending much of their day in the office, the majority of employees do not feel that their company values their opinion on the workplace environment – only 17% of over 55s and 37% under 25s think their opinion is valued – and both age groups state they are rarely involved in discussions about potential changes for the office environment. To boost trust amongst their workforce, employers should conduct a solid change management programme and ensure they take the time to understand what their employees want and need from an office environment, engaging with them about any proposed changes.
- Quiet areas: Both generations highly value quiet spaces at work – 80% of the over 55s and 80% of the under 25s say they value quiet spaces at work yet only a minority actually have them (34% of 55+ year olds and 39% of the under 25s). For a simple yet effective solution, employers should seek to increase the designated quiet areas and zones that staff can retreat to and include escape cocoon seating around the workplace.
- Personal space: 9 in 10 (89%) of 55+ year olds and 80% of the under 25s value personal workspaces, yet only 69% of 55+ year olds and 61% of the under 25s have a place to call their own in the office. To address this discrepancy, companies must look beyond the modern hot desking trend, consult their employees about what they really need to work productively and make the necessary changes to create a variety of workspaces so workers can select their own suitable space according to their personality and tasks.
- Tools and technology: 83% of the over 55s and the under 25s value tools and technology in the workplace however, surprisingly only just over half of the over 55s (54%) and the under 25s (52%) say they have them. Employers should consult their employees about what tools and technology they need to be more effective at work. Failure to provide the right tools and technology will prevent them being mobile in the workplace and they will not utilise the variety of workspaces available.
Jitesh Patel, chief executive, Peldon Rose, the office design specialists, said: “With millions of workers remaining in employment into their 60s and 70s, employers face the unexpected challenge of accommodating diverse generations of employees under one roof. As businesses aim to balance the needs and desires of both older and younger workers within the modern workplace, our survey findings have demonstrated that it is often the older workers who are being over-looked and under-valued by employers, leading to poor wellbeing and motivation.
“Instead of focusing on office gimmicks and wellbeing policies that they feel will appeal to the youngest employees at the expense of their more experienced workers, businesses should seek to understand the needs of the whole workforce. Failure to do so could result in higher attrition of the older staff who have been the backbone of their business and have valuable knowledge and experience which could be imparted on to the younger generations.
“Fortunately the survey also shows that there is a clear middle ground that companies looking to support the mental wellbeing of all employees should focus on. A supportive and inclusive office environment that has plenty of natural light, quiet areas, personal space and the right tools and technology to get the job done will boost the wellbeing of all staff and will have a significant and lasting impact on all generations.”