Rethinking office space for an ageing workforce

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The UK is facing a colossal skills gap, and older workers are vital to filling it. Find out what businesses must do to appeal to this huge pool of talented and experienced workers.

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Rethinking office space for an ageing workforce

Our economy depends heavily on huge pools of talented, experienced older workers. The UK is facing a shortfall of 7.5 million workers by 2022. As our society ages, more baby boomers will be needed to fill this burgeoning skills gap and to ensure business success and continuity. But how can employers convince these valuable employees to stay in work longer?

Stamping out bias
We’re already seeing more and more regulation around diversity – especially gender equality. Large UK employers now need to publish figures on the pay gap between their male and female employees. It’s only a matter of time before age discrimination and bias follows a similar trajectory.
The Government has already called upon business to employ an extra one million older people by 2022. This means every UK employer needs to increase the number of workers aged 50-69 in the UK by 12% over the coming five years.
This is an ambitious yet necessary target according to Andy Briggs, who is CEO of Aviva UK Life, and the Government’s Business Champion on this issue: “There are 15 million people of this age group in the labour market, yet only nine million are in work. The UK is facing a colossal skills gap, and older workers are vital to filling it” he says.

Age-friendly workplaces
At JLL, we want to ensure that we have a truly inclusive workplace that supports our ambitious diversity and inclusion strategy, and we want to work with our clients who have the same ambitions. To this end, we are currently reviewing of our own UK offices from an ease-of-use standpoint and will aim to use the findings to develop a comprehensive diversity standard for offices. This would include – among other things – adjustments that make the office space more age-friendly.
In many cases these changes will be minor and synonymous with good design. For example, while technology is generally an enabler, it can also be a barrier. “I’ve seen technology-enabled buildings which have very poor acoustics so it sounds like a jumble of voices,” says John Symes, Director of Workplace Strategy at JLL. It makes it more difficult to pick out the key points and hinders concentration – for everyone, not just for those who are hard of hearing.

Flexible work options
New studies are showing that the vast majority of baby boomers expect or want to continue working, and that the majority of them seek some form of flexibility. Often, the decision to remain in work revolves around a family situation. In many cases, care giving responsibilities rest with older workers who are more likely to care for a parent or a spouse for example. More flexible work arrangements will not only allow them to provide care but also to continue working and earning a living.

Embracing a diverse future
We know that our society is ageing and that the workforce of the future needs to be far more multi-generational than it is today. To avoid losing huge pools of talented, experienced workers, businesses must be more adept at leading diverse teams and treating employees –regardless of age – equally and fairly, with flexibility, reasonable adjustments, and opportunities for career development in later life.

This article was compiled by Emilija Emma and edited by Laura Jockers in JLL’s Upstream Sustainability Services Team.

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