Employees aged 50 and over who switched to remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have reported improved health and wellbeing. That’s one of the key findings to emerge from recent research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Is remote working part of the employee benefits you offer?
According to the ONS release, between January and February 2020, two-thirds (66.8%) of workers aged 50 years and over said they had never worked from home. However, at some point between April 2020 and March 2021, two in five (41.5%) of these individuals changed to working from home ‘sometimes, often or always’.
The ONS also found that there were similar characteristics shared between people aged 50+ who had not reached the State Pension age, and those that did not switch to working from home during the pandemic. This group tend to have "poorer health, lower well-being, live in deprived areas and have lower or no qualifications", according to the research.
Older workers who switched to working from home tended to be in better health prior to the onset of the pandemic than those who did not, with 84.4% of "switchers" reporting "excellent", "very good" or "good" health compared with 78.5% of those that did not switch. Conversely, switchers were less likely to report "fair" or "poor" health.
Moreover, the ONS research shows how remote working can keep older employees in the workforce for longer. Indeed, in June and July 2020, older workers who were working entirely from home were more likely to say they were planning to retire later (11%) compared with those not working from home (5%).
In addition, remote working was also found to have had an impact on how long older workers with a disability or illness were to stay in the workforce. Citing data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing COVID-19 substudy, the ONS said those with a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity who work from home were more likely to say they are now planning to retire later (10.9%) compared with those not working from home (4.9%).
Commenting on the research findings, Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, said older workers were more likely to value flexibility than younger workers.
"More home working options increases the match between older workers' preferences and the available employment opportunities”, Boys said. “It can extend working lives and is a positive outcome from the big home working experiment.”
[Related reading: Workplace Wellbeing: What Employers Think vs. What Employees Want]
Despite the fact the global COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end at some point, remote working is likely to remain a key perk for most employees -- especially given the benefits it affords, as highlighted by the ONS research.
Is flexible working, including remote working, available to your staff? If it’s not, could you end up losing some of your people to the competition? Maybe it’s time you revisited the employee benefits you offer and see if they are working in your employees’ best interests.