What will the work landscape look like over the next months and what will it mean for older workers?
As employers consider their options when emerging from lockdown, many are clear that flexible working is likely to play a bigger role, at least for the time being.
This may well be a boon for older workers who are wanting to reduce their hours as they approach retirement or embark on a more portfolio career or who might need greater flexibility due to health or caring issues.
However, it is important to bear in mind how any reduction in hours might affect pensions and other benefits, such as healthcare cover. Older workers may also have to adjust their plans for retirement if the economic crash affects their pension and savings.
One of the key issues that comes up in discussions around best practice has been about the need for a flexible working framework, but one which is loose enough to allow for individual circumstances. It is important that managers are encouraged to understand what patterns work best for the individuals in their teams and to know their personal circumstances. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work.
Employers will need to ensure that employees feel able to discuss the issues they are facing and find some sort of workable solution, even if only temporary. That might include working reduced hours, working different hours and redeployment and job redesign depending on circumstances. The best flexible employers are those who know their employees’ circumstances and are able to pre-empt possible problems as much as possible.
Flexibility will be important in the mid-term because of fears over social distancing and commuting, particularly if people have or are living with people with underlying health issues. Research suggests over 50s have a higher risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 and that that risk increases with each decade. However, it is important to remember that just because an employee is of a certain age does not necessarily mean that they are going to be more or less affected.
Therefore it is important to adopt policies designed to tackle the impact of the coronavirus across the board in order to protect all members of staff, including those who could potentially be at higher degrees of risk.
Another big issue in the coming months is the potential for big increases in redundancy. It is important to emphasise what older workers bring to the table, rather than just focusing on increased risk. In a situation where more people may be working remotely and on their own, qualities such as maturity and experience are likely to be vital.