By Dr. Nirmal De Silva
It is widely-known that population ageing is a global phenomenon, with the number of people aged 65 years and above expected to grow significantly across Asia in the coming years and decades.
According to latest research carried out by Regus, the global workplace provider, it has been revealed that 84% of respondents worldwide see flexible working is critical for keeping older, experienced workers in the economy. 88% of respondents also confirmed that flexible working is key to keeping those who care for a relative in employment so that they better juggle the demands of their family and their professional life. The research surveyed more than 44,000 senior business people around the world, across more than 100 countries.
As the retirement age is constantly increasing, especially in Western economies, the proportion of those needing to remain in employment, and who are fit and willing to do so is also getting higher. In reality, issues such as inflexible working hours and a long commute are very off-putting to older workers. These individuals often also have to care for family members and have to consider their physical limitations in continuing to commit to work in today’s fast-paced business world.
Looking at the Sri Lankan scenario, while in the past decades retirement meant that an individual would spend time in a leisurely manner away from the stresses of work, global scientific research has shown that this can be detrimental to their mental and physical well-being, especially mental health. Such research has shown that it is very important to keep the mind active and one sure-fire way of doing that is by continuing to work, even if it’s at a less intense level than prior to retirement. However, with companies continuously attempting to do away with older employees and invest in young blood this leaves the aged population facing quite a conundrum. In recent years, Sri Lankan retirees, who have spent decades in the corporate world, have shown an inclination to take up work as consultants and board directors. While this is a welcome development to keep these individuals contributing to the economy and maximising the use of their decades of wisdom, the lack of proper facilities in terms of a proper office environment to carry out work in an efficient manner is seen as a major drawback that discourages individuals from continuing to work beyond retirement.
Older workers often have caring responsibilities, potential health problems, and a desire to spend more time with their partner or family or to take up a new hobby or skill. Additionally, moving away from a higher monthly income to a lesser income that they are likely to draw after retirement means that they will be unable to sustain a certain lifestyle that they have gotten used to over the years. Given such a backdrop, they would prefer to keep on working, most probably at a less intense level where they have the freedom and flexibility to honour their other commitments.
However, through flexible working these individuals are given a greater choice over when and where they work, thus enabling them to continue to contribute to the economy, without sacrificing their work-life balance. Flexible working therefore is an ideal solution for those who want to remain in the workforce past retirement. It gives them numerous benefits including the ability to maintain control of their schedule, the chance to work in a professional office environment with all facilities, reduce lengthy commutes to work and also help them to draw an additional income. Flexible working can also provide older workers with a ‘bridge’ into retirement. Reports show that often the complete loss of professional work can leave retired workers feeling depressed and unmotivated even to the point of affecting mental health. Flexible working can help older workers delay retirement without giving up too much of their hard-earned freedom.
Founded in Brussels, Belgium, in 1989, Regus is the global workplace provider based in Luxembourg and listed on the London Stock Exchange. Regus’ network of more than 2,300 business centres in 850 cities and 106 countries provides convenient, high-quality, fully serviced spaces for people to work, whether for a few minutes or a few years. Companies like Google, Toshiba and GlaxoSmithKline choose Regus so that they can work flexibly and make their businesses more successful. Regus has opened wherever its 2.1 million members want support – city centres, suburban districts, shopping centres and retail outlets, railway stations, motorway service stations and even community centres.
The writer, a business professional with more than 15 years senior management experience in the Asia Pacific region, is currently the Country Manager for Regus Sri Lanka, the local arm of the world’s largest provider of flexible workspace.