Thinking outside the box

National Older Workers Week, being hosted by our sister site workingwise.co.uk, has offered many ideas which are relevant to a broad range of workers, including working parents.

 

It’s National Older Workers Week this week and our sister site workingwise.co.uk is holding a series of events to shine a light on the challenges faced by older workers in the current climate and on what employers are doing to address things like ageism at work. Aside from our attitudes to older people generally, many of the issues that come up – a greater need for work life balance, problems getting back to work after a career break and caring responsibilities/a lack of adequate care infrastructure, for instance, are very similar to those faced by working parents. And, of course, the problems faced by older workers are often the cumulative effect of a lifetime of work-related problems, including the lack of quality, flexible jobs which consigns many to precarious, low paid work with no pathway out.

Earlier this year, workingwise.co.uk published a toolkit on the gender pension gap which brought together some of the different challenges faced by women across their working lifetimes, putting the spotlight on the cumulative impact of inequality at home, discrimination and workplace inflexibility on women. It also highlighted best practice in addressing those challenges, from outreach initiatives to returner programmes.
The discussions during National Older Workers Week have spotlighted many of those lifetime challenges. Caroline Waters, vice president of Carers UK, for instance, spoke of the lack of soft infrastructure, by which she meant elder care, childcare and lifelong learning, that make working life possible for many. She also spoke about the need for job redesign so people do not drop out in the long run, exhausted by the sheer size of what she called ‘extreme’ jobs. She said part-time roles need to be available across all levels of work.
Nicola Pattimore, chief people and transformation officer at City & Guilds, said job shares should be much more widespread than they are. workingwise.co.uk’s survey showed a huge appetite for them – 44% said they would consider a job share, although only 2% do one currently. Pattimore said employers could be much more innovative in the way they use job shares, for instance, pairing up older and younger workers.
It would, of course, depend on the role, but experimentation drives organisations forward and things like multigenerational job shares or reverse mentoring can mix things up and change how we think of work as well as resulting in new ideas and greater engagement. Too often we drift along in systems that don’t really work because we are too scared to question them. We need to be braver in so many aspects of our lives today. Work holds a central part in our lives and for too many it is failing.


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