How Companies Will Change When You Would Rather Work Than Retire

Photo by David Harry Stewart

Photo by David Harry Stewart

"It’s no secret that people are living longer. But breaking down the numbers is surprising. Life expectancy has increased at a rate of more than two decades every decade, with more people than ever living well into their 80s, 90s, and 100s.

This means some changes in the workplace need to happen to help people who are living longer, says Lynda Gratton, professor at London Business School, and coauthor with economist Andrew Scott of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. Gratton says that people living longer lives in health means that they’ll work longer, too. However, how and where they’ll work are likely to change, and employers are going to need to be ready to accept new realities and adopt new practices to accommodate workers of all ages.

Facing the financial realities of lower retirement benefits, improving health status, and rising longevity in the U.S., a 2015 report from human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt predicts that people will work longer. No longer will the traditional 'three-stage' life cycle apply, where people are full-time students, then full-time employees until they retire full time. Longevity in the workplace means that companies are going to need to support employees, and those employees are going to need to embrace lifelong education and training.

'Each person, depending on their circumstances and their motivation and aspirations, will develop a life path which has a lot more stages in it,' Gratton says. She and Scott see at least three more phases emerging:

Exploration stage: where people of any age devote some time to learning more about themselves and the world.

Portfolio stage: where people try different types of work for money, community, and to serve other needs

Entrepreneurial stage: where they try self-employment or business ownership.

Gratton says that keeping older workers engaged will include discarding stereotypes, especially about their capabilities, technology aptitude, or other false assumptions. Older workers in the coming decades will live longer periods in good health than ever before, she says. When people of different ages and from different backgrounds interact through diverse networks, the more likely they are to inspire each other and create a better workplace, she says. An evolution in the benefits that will serve workers facing long lives may improve conditions for everyone." -Gwen Moran via Fast Company