Older workers value flexi-work too: Poll

Six in 10 will consider leaving a company that does not provide for work-life harmony

Work-life balance is not just a millennial aspiration, according to a survey by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) and The Straits Times, which showed that older workers also value flexible work arrangements and would consider leaving a company that did not provide for work-life harmony.

The survey, which was conducted last year to find out developments and trends in work-life harmony, also found more older workers expressing a desire for work-life balance compared with the same poll done four years earlier, in 2014.

A total of 511 employers and 1,000 employees were surveyed, out of whom 59 per cent were employees aged 55 and above.

Older workers who would consider leaving a company with a lack of work-life programmes increased from 46 per cent in 2014 to 58 per cent in last year's survey.

Almost 95 per cent said their personal well-being would be better if they could manage their work and personal lives more efficiently. This was up from 83 per cent in 2014.

The survey also found that 92 per cent of older workers felt they would work more productively if their company provided flexibility to manage personal and work responsibilities, up from 83 per cent in 2014.

According to Dr Helen Ko, a senior lecturer of gerontology programmes at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, the survey confirmed previous local research, which showed that flexible work arrangements are desired by workers of all ages. "Flexible or part-time work can help older workers with caring or domestic responsibilities and who need to manage long-term health problems," she said.

Many older workers would like to work part-time, even going back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure. Some may want to spend more time with their families or take long overseas trips, but still return to work, she added.

Similarly, Ms Linda Teo, country manager of human resources firm ManpowerGroup Singapore, said: "While older workers are at a more stable life stage, this does not mean they do not have their own aspirations or commitments like their younger colleagues."

Given the ageing population, experts say that employers need to realise that retaining older workers is not just beneficial, but also vital.

Employers who leverage flexible work arrangements as a talent strategy will be able to capitalise on the expertise and experience of older workers, said Mrs Roslyn Ten, general manager of Tafep.

Mr Martin Hill, associate director of human resources at Randstad Singapore, also pointed out that unlike younger workers, mature workers may not be as interested in big job promotions. Instead, they may want to play a larger role of mentoring younger employees, sharing their work experiences and learning with the next generation.

He said: "Companies that strive to understand what mature workers seek in their jobs stand a better chance at retaining them and having a diverse workforce for better productivity and creativity."

Some companies have already taken heed.

Over the last three years, Maybank Singapore has hired over 50 professionals, managers and executives aged 45 and above, offering arrangements such as flexible time off and an informal buddy system.

Its head of logistics and hospitality, Mr Abdul Aziz Abdullah, 64, a grandfather of two, said: "I could stay for 41 years because of the exposure the company has given me, and also thanks to the flexible work arrangements."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2019, with the headline 'Older workers value flexi-work too: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe