An empty meeting room with a table and chairs surrounded by windows

As mentioned in a previous post, Living to 100: the changing world of work, the majority of children born in rich countries today can expect to live to more than 100. We are currently still living our lives in the same way that our parents and even grandparents did, but this approach can’t last forever. 

For example, for those of us in our twenties and thirties, we won’t be able to retire at the age of our parents - indeed, to retire on 50% of your final salary income having saved 10% of your income each year it’s predicted that you’d need to work into your late seventies or early eighties. At the same time, working for that long is going to take its toll on our mental and physical fitness, while our enthusiasm for life could also suffer. 

This means that we need to reimagine the structure of our lives and the current three-stage model of education and career followed by retirement needs to be replaced by a multi-stage model with new stages and new ages and the potential for greater individual journeys.

What does this mean for businesses?

Much corporate practice is predicated on the assumption of a three-stage life with a career stage involving a deep commitment to work in order to achieve financial success. However, this needs to change and companies need to do all they can to help their employees to stay productive in the workplace if they are going to be working into their 80s!

In a multi-stage life only some stages will be based around a deep commitment to work, and with different career paths to sequence in different ways, age will no longer be a simple predictor of motivation. With new stages emerging firms will have to reconsider the work-life balance that they offer to different groups.

Graduate recruitment practices, learning and development policies, pay and performance assessment will all need to be transformed in the wake of a 100-year life as firms recognise that over a 100-year life any one specific firm or industry will play a much reduced role in our lives compared to the recent past.

Some of the measures that businesses can introduce include: 

  • scraping graduate internship programmes - instead acknowlegde that people of different ages might want an insight and experience in an industry and start from the bottom.
  • giving people mid-career break options - give employees the option to take time out of their working lives to rest and recuperate and do something for themselves, for example by going travelling or going to uni to undertake a degree.
  • offer individual curation of learning and development schemes - this is especially true when some roles disappear due to automation. Comapnies need to put in the time, effort and money into training their staff and provide them with choices as well as helping them to understand what choices there are. This means that you are taking people with you, rather than imposing change on people which is likely to mean that they are happier and more productive workers. 
  • delaying retirement - there need to be some roles available for older employees.
  • delinking pay with age - the stereotype that older workers are only suitable for certain roles and young workers others has gone out the window.
  • give people a realistic view of the future before they enter the workplace - people, especially those starting out, want to understand what career paths might be available to them in the future so they can go about gaining the right skills in the meantime. For example, in medicine it will be ten years from starting your degree to being settled in a career, and students and junior doctors need to understand the changes taking place within the industry and how it might impact them, so they can build skills which complement their future. 
  • develop a wellbeing strategy - businesses need to look at building better work and better working lives. Currently only 8% of companies have wellbeing strategies, however it's estimated that companies lose £550m a year because of a lack of wellbeing. The wellbeing strategy could involve any number or all of the above to help employees gain control over their working lives and curate their skills and experience. It's essential for wellbeing to have an attractive future, so you have to help create one for your employees. 
  • communicate with government and other stakeholders - having a say about how you are finding the workplace in the 21st century will help society implement change which will be beneficial to both you and your employees.