This is why boomers need to reinvent our workplaces

A new report says we baby boomers have unrealistic expectations of working past retirement age. Do they know who they are talking about? Are we or are we not the generation that redefines things? And generally to our own benefit?

Sure, there are some quite significant barriers to making it possible for older workers to thrive in the workplace but remember, once upon a time, women barely worked beyond the home. We, as the generation that would not take “no” for an answer, changed that.

So let us work out what needs to be done, roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The report, by Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement (CSR) in America, questioned 1000 non-retirees and just over 2000 retirees about work and their plans for the future. They found that 60 per cent planned to embark on some kind of paid work “after retirement”.

While half said they were willing to accept a small pay cut in return for flexibility, the buck stopped there. Older workers are not willing to be paid less simply because they are older, thank you very much.

Ad. Article continues below.

Unfortunately, this does not match up to reality with more than half of the working population of the respondents saying they were paid significantly less post-retirement age.

Similarly, nearly all (94 per cent)  of non-retirees who plan to work in retirement would like some type of special work arrangement, such as flex-time (56 per cent), telecommuting (20 per cent), compressed work schedule (17 per cent) or job-sharing (14 per cent). But only about one-third of currently employed retirees report having such an arrangement.

Joe Hockey says we will all have to work until at least 70, however little has been said about how this is going to happen. One issue that needs to be addresses, as discussed in this article in The New Daily, is the matter of workers’ insurance. Most state-based workers’ compensation schemes simply do not cover older workers, which understandably scares off employers.

Another issue is training. I think we can agree that most workplaces are changing rapidly due to technology and automation. Just because we’re old doesn’t mean we can’t learn new tricks, right? Dedicated, appropriate skills training programs are required to bring us up to speed in some areas.

And then there’s the small manner of discrimination. Michael O’Neill, chief executive of National Seniors Australia, says, “Many job applicants are being judged by their birth certificates.”

Ad. Article continues below.

Does that sound familiar to you?

The government has launched a National Inquiry examining the practices, attitudes and laws that deny or diminish equal participation in employment of older Australians, which you can find out more about here.

In the meantime, it’s up to you to be thinking ahead and showing employers what needs to be done.

A National Seniors’ report found most older Australian workers were waiting until “crisis points”, such as job loss or health problems, to update their skills. It also found that four out of five workers aged 50 or older had either never, or “not recently”, spent time planning their careers.

Mr O’Neill said it was still important to know how to map out a new career path or update your skills in case retirement plans went awry.

Ad. Article continues below.

And while we could sit around waiting for the government and workplaces to catch up with older workers’ needs, the other option is to get involved and to tell workplaces what you need. As this expert explains, flexible arrangements and hours are some of the adjustments older workers need to continue contributing.

Are you ready to show the workforce how it needs to be done? What are the barriers you’ve come up against while trying to stay in the workforce?