Re-employ mature workers? Can their health and performance measure up?

By: ProAge Director, Isaiah Chng

The median age of our workforce today stands at 41 years old, and there's been talks to increase retirement and re-employment age in Singapore. With such an increase, the top concerns on employers' mind are performance and health of their mature workers. In our line, we hear many stories of how blue-collar workers struggle with aches and pains as they mature, especially if theirs is a labour intensive role. But it’s important to note that these complaints are not isolated to the blue-collar worker. In fact, many white-collar workers too experience a toll on their bodies over years of long periods of sitting, poor posture and stress which affects their concentration at work.

Statistics show that about 40% of the population is facing an existing chronic health condition; a situation even more prevalent amongst older people. With issues like diabetes, depression, sleep apnea and associated physical aches present, the mature worker’s body struggles with low energy, shorter attention spans, and more frequent visits to the doctor. This affects even the most hard working and best employee.

Regardless of whether they are blue- or white-collar workers, the fact is our mature employees will feel their body take a toll in our fast-paced society. Unless companies design initiatives that directly empower mature workers to continue contributing to the organisation, they will find themselves falling victim to a talent crunch in Singapore with their best workers fleeing to greener pastures that accommodate their needs.

But can nothing be done when a person's body goes through the natural process of ageing? It is at this point that I would like to bust the age-old myth that physical frailty observed with the ageing body cannot be reversed. While it is true that the body deteriorates over the years, our abilities to cope can certainly be improved with targeted support that is both relevant and age-appropriate.

The Port of Singapore Authority is a good example of a company that has taken considerable steps to empower seniors to overcome the social and physical challenges faced at work so that they can perform optimally. This is a step in the right direction.

To end off, I would like to use the analogy of a car to describe our mature employees today. Every car has an engine capacity that powers it. Naturally, with greater engine capacity, the greater the power output. However, after driving for some time, the car needs maintenance to keep it efficient. It may have the capacity but may not be able to perform to the fullest.

Likewise, companies that actively provide programmes and initiatives for "maintenance" ensure employees’ “capacities” are looked into and are in “top condition”. By empowering mature workers with the health skills and knowledge to actively manage their health and associated chronic conditions, you are not only enabling them to be more productive and happy at work but also retaining an important resource amidst a serious labour crunch.

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