New survey of office workers reveals deep divides in today’s multi-generational workplaces

Older employees are at risk of being marginalised in the workplace according to a new survey of office workers from workplace consultants, Peldon Rose, which reveals big differences in the wellbeing, attitudes and motivations of the workplace’s oldest and youngest employees.

The over 50s now account for more than 30 per cent of the UK’s working population (9.4million people), but according to the new research older workers are the least content of all employees with less than a quarter of the 55+ age group feeling appreciated by their company and 80 per cent suffering from or having suffered from workplace stress.

In contrast, the workplace’s newest recruits, the under 25 year olds, are the office’s most positive employees with over half feeling appreciated by their company and 60 per cent – the lowest of all age groups – suffering or having suffered from workplace stress.

The research warns that businesses are creating a ‘forgotten generation’ of older workers who, despite their experience and knowledge, do not feel their voice is being heard at work – less than a fifth (17 per cent) of over 55s believe that their company values their opinion on the workplace, compared with over a third (37 per cent) of the under 25s.

The oldest and youngest employees also have different priorities and motivations.  While over three-quarters of the under 25s think social events and wellbeing packages such as gym memberships (63 per cent) are important for supporting their wellbeing at work, the 55+ age group consider social events (56 per cent) and wellbeing packages (39 per cent) as the least important workplace benefits.

In addition, two-fifths (42 per cent) of under 25s think social and communal areas in the workplace are very valuable, but only a quarter of the over 55s believe the same.

The most effective way to boost mental wellbeing across the generations is to increase exposure to natural light in the workplace; 87 per cent of the over 55s and 83 per cent  of the under 25s state exposure to natural light is important in supporting their mental health and wellbeing at work, yet only 56 per cent  of 55+ year olds and 63 per cent  of under 25s have exposure to natural light sources within their working environment.

The research also reveals that companies are failing to meaningfully engage with their employees.  The majority of employees do not feel that their opinions are valued in the workplace environment; both age groups state that they are rarely involved in discussions about potential changes for the office. Employers should conduct a solid change management programme and ensure they take the time to understand what their employees want and need, engaging with them about any proposed changes.

Both age groups also showed discrepancies about the quiet areas and personal space available in their office.

Only a minority of workers have quiet areas available to them (34 per cent of 55+ year olds and 39 per cent  of the under 25s).

9 in 10 of 55+ year olds and 80 per cent  of the under 25s value personal workspaces, yet only 69 per cent of 55+ year olds and 61 per cent of the under 25s have a place to call their own in the office. Companies must look beyond the modern hot-desking trend, consult their employees about what they really need to work productively and make the necessary changes to create a variety of workspaces so workers can select their own suitable space according to their personality and tasks.

Finally, 83 per cent of both age groups value tools and technology in the workplace however, surprisingly only half say they have them.

Jitesh Patel, Chief Executive of Peldon Rose said:

“With millions of workers remaining in employment into their 60s and 70s, employers face the unexpected challenge of accommodating diverse generations of employees under one roof.  As businesses aim to balance the needs and desires of both older and younger workers within the modern workplace, our survey findings have demonstrated that it is often the older workers who are being over-looked and under-valued by employers, leading to poor wellbeing and motivation.  Instead of focusing on office gimmicks and wellbeing policies that they feel will appeal to the youngest employees at the expense of their more experienced workers, businesses should seek to understand the needs of the whole workforce. Failure to do so could result in higher attrition of the older staff who have been the backbone of their business and have valuable knowledge and experience which could be imparted on to the younger generations.

“Fortunately the survey also shows that there is a clear middle ground that companies looking to support the mental wellbeing of all employees should focus on.  A supportive and inclusive office environment that has plenty of natural light, quiet areas, personal space and the right tools and technology to get the job done will boost the wellbeing of all staff and will have a significant and lasting impact on all generations.”