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Changing parameters in business

Working longer, but working less? Ann McCracken explores later retirement and more flexible working patterns


“Life is like riding a bicycle – to keep your balance, you must keep moving” – Albert Einstein

The UK government has told us that we will have to work until we are 70 or more before state pensions kick in, this is an unattractive option for some of us. However, I recently read that the richest man in the world (Carlos Slim) is suggesting that four or even three days a week working on full pay could be more beneficial for the economy and the individual.

The think tank, New Economics Foundation and the TUC, suggest a ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other and simply to enjoy life.

Flexible working patterns have been encouraged by government and large businesses and there is a growing corporate understanding that employees respond better to greater control over when they work and what matters is the outcome, not the hours a task takes. A 2014 Regus survey, mapping 20,000 business respondents, found that flexi timings helped reduce work-related stress and attracted talent. A recent CIPD/healthy working lives survey explored how small/medium enterprises are trying to support the extension of working life of their employees. A third (34%) carry this out through flexible working options, a quarter (25%) have a flexible retirement policy and one in five (22%) offer homeworking. Large organisations have slightly higher percentages so it seems across the working areas, there is a realisation of the relevance of experience. 20 years ago, much experience was lost in organisations as redundancies of 50 + aged staff was widespread at a time when technology was being introduced at a fast pace.

Technology is still playing a large part in changing practices with home and agile working creating flexibility and innovation at many levels. Perhaps we are looking at work/life integration rather than work/life balance? As more people are based at home or on the move they need to integrate home/personal needs with work expectations. This change requires careful delineation of boundaries and expectations. We are all aware of the intrusion of taking your smart phone on holiday – not only does it help you book in for your flight/accommodation and check out local eateries but it also allows your work e mails and texts to follow you around. Most people are now savvy enough to remember to put an ‘out of office’ message on their phone and it is key that YOU remember you are out of the office!!

Flexibility for work patterns requires trust and it is vital that both employers and employees combine to make this work. This requires good communication, positive relationships and clear management as well as a good degree of emotional intelligence/awareness. These are the ‘must have’ skills to make working at any age enjoyable, productive and satisfying.

About Ann McCracken

Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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