Results of a flextime pilot program at MIT holds clues on how to keep older workers happy, productive and on the job longer–at a time when many are predicting labor shortages.
Employers should take note. This is a worker population whose needs have to be addressed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 million Americans who were 55 or above were in the workforce in 2015. Another 1.3 million were seeking employment. By 2022, older workers will outnumber younger workers.
One way employers can make it easier for older workers to stay on the job is by offering flextime. The MIT flextime pilot program encouraged employees to work remotely at least two or three times per week with Wednesdays being the only day of the week to work in the office. Staffers were told not to feel compelled to follow a 9-to-5 schedule but be mindful of others’ working hours. They were encouraged to “unplug” so they weren’t connected to work 24/7. After six months, 100 percent of the participants said they would recommend the program to others. Workers said they felt less stressed and overall morale was up.
What does that mean for older workers? When we start to see more flextime in the workplace, we’ll also start to see a reduction in absenteeism and an increase in productivity—from all age groups. Older workers today are healthier and more active than the generations before. They have non-job interests and they want time for those too. Just like their younger counterparts, older workers need the freedom to get things done outside of work. For example, they often have older parents that need their care. Flextime gives them the time to be there for their parents, which means they can be more productive and focused at work.
As employers realize the value of older workers (who often bring with them an abundance of skills, experience and education) and as the unemployment rate remains low. flextime, especially for companies that cannot afford other incentives (i.e., pay raises), may be the answer to enticing these workers to remain on the job.