Ageing and the Workplace

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The evolving workspace makes way and creates space for a generation of older employees, who would not otherwise stick around.

Work provides social contact, personal growth, financial security, stability, a sense of identity and social status.  The workplace — consisting of the work environment and the group dynamics at work — plays an important role in the achievement of the benefits of work.  Not only has there been a change in the demographic distribution, there has also been a change in the work environment since the Industrial Revolution in the 20th century.  Work culture has evolved from a fixed and mechanical one to that of flexible working conditions. The idea of having fixed hours from 9-5 has shifted to accommodate flexible hours and remote working, based on the needs and availability of the employees. This also highlights a growing equality of rights between employees and managers.  [mkdf_blockquote text=” A casual work environment, an emphasis on teamwork and the increasing influence of technology has changed the way a company and its employees function.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

 

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Looking at the demographic trends of various countries, it is evident that although there is a lot of inflow of young employees, the workforce is also ageing.  Apart from developing countries like India, where mortality rates and birth rates are high – contributing to a younger workforce — several developed countries have an ageing workforce. Economic needs evolve, and with current rates of inflation and increasing demand of consumer goods, financial needs have taken precedent over retirement. [mkdf_blockquote text=”Several employees over the age of 55 are less confident about their retirement plans and several find pension and retirement savings insufficient to keep up with the growing economic demands. ” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

There is also a skill-gap which is often resolved by retaining the older, more experienced employees. Another, rather simple reason why there seems to be an ageing of the workforce is because of the social benefits of work and the feeling of being generally productive. A study has shown that the availability of choice of whether or not to work past the “typical” retirement age- has shown to be a key to satisfaction among working older adults. Imagine the character of Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) as an intern to Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) in the movie, The Intern.

Keeping the movie in mind, it is easy to see the need of the older generations to work and the responsibility of the current generation to reach out to them and accommodate them in the dynamic work environment. However, prejudices are rather common for humans and the ageing population is no less susceptible to being victim to a set of prejudices either.

‘Ageism’ is stereotyping and discriminating on the basis of a person’s age. At work, ageism may take the following roles:

  • Not hiring an older person;
  • Believing that an older employee would not be interested in learning new technology;
  • A preconceived notion that senior employees would be unable to perform or contribute due to physical maladies; or
  • Making fun of the older employees.

Ageism can negatively affect the employees by lowering their self-esteem and self-worth. While some may begin to internalise the stereotypes which could further limit their workplace satisfaction, others may try too hard to fit in, losing their identity and the unique values they bring to an organisation. Several countries have anti-discrimination laws to counter ageism and several companies even encourage the participation of the older employees at work. Ageism is not the only problem that the ageing crowd faces in the workplace. Some of the challenges they face in the changing workplace are:

  • Increasingly dynamic and involved role of technology often makes it difficult for the employees to keep up with work requirements.
  • Some employees may have a low morale when working for a younger management.
  • Unfixed work timings would also mean increasingly long working hours with comparatively low returns, may especially affect them since they’ve worked for fixed hours for several years.

In conclusion — the years of experience and insight that older employees possess helps the current young generation line of managers and founders. Thus several startups today may have a young founder and CEO but also have a board of senior mentors who may be retired but have several years of experience. In fact, the current workplace culture is rather beneficial for accommodating the senior employees and can be used in the following ways:

  • Technology and easy access to resources can provide opportunities for remote work;
  • Equality and declining grapevine requirements allow for modification of responsibilities according to their needs and abilities;
  • A casual work environment encourages the ageing employees to seek guidance in operating new systems and technologies from the younger employees;
  • Anti-discrimination laws in several countries protects against ageism related issues;
  • Increasingly inclusive values of several new companies encourage the ageing population to work beyond the typical retirement age.

Vini Doshi is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

References:

https://www.thebusinesswomanmedia.com/5-trends-changing-work-environment/

https://businesscasestudies.co.uk/lloyds-tsb/changing-working-patterns/the-changing-work-environment.html

http://www.asaging.org/blog/issues-impacts-and-implications-aging-workforce

https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1090&context=intl

http://agingandwork.bc.edu/blog/

https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/usefulresources/workandmentalhealth/worker/isworkgoodforyou.aspx

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/the-hr-challenges-of-an-ageing-workforce

 

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Mental Health And Sports

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Throwing light on the challenges and anxieties sports persons go through.

The mental health awareness month in May 2018 saw some large sports personalities open up about their mental health struggles over the course of their career. Sports giants like Olympic Gold-medallist swimmer- Micheal Phelps, NBA legend- Jerry West, NFL player- Brandon Marshall have shared their stories and have thus started the slow and steady process of destigmatizing mental illness in sports.

Behind the success and stardom of successful players is a brutal wave of stressors including competition, criticism, rivalry, fear of injury, expectations and fear of failure. Retirement is also a cause of mental health issues among players. The news of Australian rugby player Wallaby Dan Vickerman shows that the period of transition from playing to retirement and the phase of retirement itself can be extremely distressing for the players who have most often than not had a successful, highly achieving career. This competitive and stressful environment affects their performance which in turn affects their mental health. It’s a vicious cycle that most players face but rarely talk about. Apart from the hesitance of talking about mental health, the battle fighting for destigmatising mental illness in sports is all the more challenging in India due to the lack of a sporting culture, fewer facilities for sports, low budget allocations and lack of recognition for various sports in the country.

One of the key factors that keep players from seeking help is the stigma and the fear of losing playtime. Fear and anticipation of the media and social response also affects their help-seeking behaviour. The way the media portrays the struggles could have profound effects on the career and can further demotivate one to seek help or speak out about their issues. The most prominent example is that of golf star- Tiger Woods who did not speak about his sex addiction since his marriage, and ultimately had his public image and career affected. These negative consequences of appearing weak seem to outweigh the benefits of seeking help. According to sports psychologist Karen Nimmo, physical injuries have a certainty, and the player is well cared for but the uncertainty that comes with mental injuries leaves a player with less attention and care than they deserve. In a field where strength is a primary predictor of success, it is difficult to imagine a player struggling with mental health issues. According to the All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka, it is the perception of mental illness as a weakness that often leads to players pushing their concerns under the carpet. The main aim is to get the players to understand that talking about their vulnerabilities is a matter of strength rather than weakness.

Source: Sidney Rae on Unsplash

On one hand, the circumstances of competitive sports can add to the stressors in a player’s life and on the other hand, sports as an activity can help as a stress buster for many. Apart from the physical benefits of sports, an important reason why schools offer sports and physical training is that it helps build various aspects of one’s personality such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, self-improvement, development of self-esteem to begin with. A study has shown that rigorous physical activity is associated with reduction in depressive symptoms, anxiety and body image issues in adolescents. Active participation in sports and physical activities leads to the release of endorphins, thus giving one a sense of ‘high’ or ‘euphoria’. Sports can thus also work as a mood regulator. Several studies explain the positive effects of sports on various aspects of life and yet, those most involved in sports don’t seem to benefit the most out of it. This implies that there is something amiss in the field and practice of sports than the activity itself. The question is, what can we do to make things better in this regard?

Here are some suggestions about how the field of competitive sports can be improved so as to help one in achieving one’s full potential, holistically:

  • Provisions need to made to include mental healthcare for the players along with physical healthcare.
  • Sensitivity on part of the media and the public following the players can encourage players to freely seek help.
  • Provisions in team management for a therapist or sports psychologist will be an added advantage.
  • Post-match group or individual sessions to assess the mental health of the players is advisable as sharing helps alleviate stress.
  • Introducing mental health training right from the beginning as a preventive measure would go a long way in ensuring the mental well-being of sportspeople.

Feature Image Credit: Ben-o-Sullivan on Unsplash

 

Vini Doshi is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

 

References:

Caldwell, Olivia. “Sport, Fame, Money and Pressure a Cocktail for Mental Illness.” Stuff, 20 May 2018, www.stuff.co.nz/sport/other-sports/103564949/sport-fame-money-and-pressure-a-cocktail-for-mental-illness.

Dockett, Lauren. “Athletes Get Real About Mental Health.” Psychotherapy Networker, 10 May 2018, www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1437/athletes-get-real-about-mental-health.

“Mental Health in Sport.” Mental Notes Consulting, 16 Apr. 2014, mentalnotesconsulting.com.au/mental-health-in-sport/.

Gleeson, Scott, and Erik Brady. “When Athletes Share Their Battles with Mental Illness.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 30 Aug. 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2017/08/30/michael-phelps-brandon-marshall-mental-health-battles-royce-white-jerry-west/596857001/.

Birla, Neerja. “Want to Tackle Mental Health Issues? Sports Can Be Your ‘Daily Dose of Rejuvenation’.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 16 Feb. 2018, economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/between-the-lines/want-to-tackle-mental-health-issues-sports-can-be-your-daily-dose-of-rejuvenation/articleshow/62944087.cms.

Chandran, Nyshka. “Why Is India so Bad at Sport?” CNBC, CNBC, 20 Aug. 2016, www.cnbc.com/2016/08/19/lack-of-sporting-culture-institutional-support-and-inequality-blamed-for-indias-poor-olympic-record.html.

Mellalieu, Stephen D., et al. “Competition Stress in Sport Performers: Stressors Experienced in the Competition Environment.” Taylor & Francis, 20 May 2009, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02640410902889834?src=recsys&journalCode=rjsp20.

Goldfield, G S, et al. “Physical Activity and Psychological Adjustment in Adolescents.”Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21415442.

Woodhouse, John. “Are Indian Cricketers Keeping Their Mental Health Issues Secret?”Sportskeeda.com – Get Latest Sports News & Updates, Sportskeeda, 12 July 2017, www.sportskeeda.com/cricket/are-indian-cricketers-keeping-their-mental-health-issues-secret-2.

Peters , Daniel. “Wallaby Great Dan Vickerman, 37, Confided in Friends He Struggled with Retirement after ’10 Years at the Top of the Game’ – before He Was Found Dead at His Sydney Home.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 22 Feb. 2017, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4240984/Former-Wallaby-Dan-Vickerman-struggled-retirement.html.

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