Older workers are a valuable segment of talent that, unfortunately, are often overlooked. With skills shortages rife across the UK, these highly experienced experts have a huge amount of potential to not only fill resourcing gaps with relative ease, but also help develop skills of emerging generations.

The number of over 50’s in the workforce has already risen by 36 percent over the past two decades, driven predominately by the increase of people in their sixties working for longer – and this number is set to grow. According to research from Legal & General Retail Retirement (LGRR) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), the proportion of over 50’s in work is set to reach a record high of 47 percent by 2030. This will no doubt be influenced by the removal of the default retirement age and the increase in statutory pension age which is encouraging more people to work for longer.

In this environment, HR teams and employers alike are exploring what they need to do to best meet the needs of this dynamic demographic. Those that take the time to do this will ultimately aid their firm’s all-important retention figures, while encouraging the invaluable older generation to remain in the workforce and impart their knowledge and expertise on the emerging workforce. Engaging this demographic, however, requires a tailored approach. One that is built on a clear understanding of what these individuals want from the workplace.

The importance of the office

In order to better understand what staff of all ages want from their employers today, we conducted a study of 3000 office workers across Europe, and the results certainly proved interesting. Understandably, there were a number of differences in responses across generations, but when it came to the office space itself, we found that the older generation felt underwhelmed by their workplace.

Overall, three-quarters of those over the age of 45 revealed there was room for improvement in their workspaces, citing a desire for more private areas, better amenities and more outdoor spaces. Having an improved layout of the office was also ranked highly by those from the older generation in our study.

A preference for hybrid working

Our study also revealed that over 45’s are keen to have flexibility as to where they work in a post-pandemic world. As a case in point, before the pandemic, 78 percent of the over 45-year-olds we surveyed were entirely office-based, with 20 percent taking a hybrid approach to work. Today, this trend has reversed with 32 percent looking to be based in the office full-time, and 59 percent working in hybrid way between the home and office.

For older workers, the ability to work flexibly and achieve a better work life balance is clear. When we asked employees in the over 45’s age group how they would prefer to work in the future, a staggering 68 percent said that their preference would be a hybrid setup (but mostly in the office). Having spent most of their career working to a rigid structure, and with those in their personal circle likely able to enjoy more freedom, it’s perhaps no surprise that many desire more autonomy over how and where they work.

Rethinking the workplace to suit older workers

To support this segment of the workforce, modern offices should be designed to facilitate organised team get-togethers, chance interactions and quiet reflection, so that the needs of these workers are met.

Whether it’s to aid productivity or simply create a culture of support across teams, it’s a good idea to incorporate a natural socialisation space. This will give all employees the chance to build a real connection with their peers. I’d also suggest having designated areas dedicated to social activities – cafés, lounges and even bars, for example – which will go a long way in promoting the social element of work as well as creating a happy and united workforce.

While older workers may be less critical of archaic office environments than their younger colleagues, it’s surprising just how many showed a preference for a hybrid working style. However, it’s important to add that this way of working has made some spaces unusable for remote and in-person staff. For example, meeting rooms with limited or no audio and visual set-ups will reduce those joining meetings remotely to a small square on a laptop with sound limitations. This could end up leading those who are not in the physical workspace to feel excluded. Additionally, employees attempting to have private or sensitive conversations with clients and peers in the office may struggle to have these in an open-plan workspace, which will inevitably lead to large meeting rooms being clogged up by individuals running a one-to-one phone or video call.

After more than two years of Covid-related restrictions, older workers are craving collaboration and connections in a hybrid format – and HR teams that are able to make improvements to the workplace in response to this will be the ones able to retain this valuable segment of the workforce and navigate the UK’s difficult hiring landscape.






Amy is responsible for all aspects of People & Culture across EMEA for Unispace. She brings demonstrated experience of working in private and commercial sectors and has significant experience in Coaching, Employee Engagement, Organisational Development, Culture Change, and Stakeholder Management.