14 June 2024
Older workers still struggle with work-life balance—and there's no one-size-fits-all remedy

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Don’t be fooled by the illusion of a perfect work-life balance. Older workers face unique challenges juggling work, family, and other responsibilities. Sadly, there’s no magic formula that fits all.

Work-life balance is a topic that we all strive to achieve. The idea of being able to manage our work, family, and other responsibilities in a comfortable and balanced way is definitely appealing. However, when it comes to older workers, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to work-life balance.

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In New Zealand, older workers, those aged 55 and older, make up a significant portion of the workforce. But treating all older workers as the same would be a mistake. Our research has shown that the support needed to achieve better work-life balance can differ as workers age.

The lives of older workers can vary greatly when it comes to employment, family structure, financial resources, time, and well-being. As the number of older employees in the economy continues to grow, it is important to understand what will help keep them satisfied in their work as they approach and go beyond retirement age.

In our study, we surveyed 512 employees in three age groups: 55-59 years, 60-64 years, and 65 and older. We found that the average levels of work-life balance among older workers were high, which is a positive outcome. Those who reported high levels of work-life balance were able to comfortably manage their work, family, and other responsibilities.

Job stress, job anxiety, and job depression can all affect well-being at work. Interestingly, we found that the 55-59 year-olds reported higher levels of job stress compared to older respondents. These younger older workers often had to juggle high job demands and the needs of younger families, including teenagers. However, when their work-life balance was high, their levels of anxiety and depression were lower.

The benefits of work-life balance were strongest in the younger cohort (55-59 years) and reduced but remained significant as employees aged. We also found that those aged 65 and older, who were eligible for retirement but still working, reported a reduction in job stress at levels significantly higher than the younger cohort with greater work-life balance.

Overall, our research highlights the importance of age and proximity to retirement age in how workers respond to work-life balance. It is crucial for managers to understand that older workers are not a uniform group and to develop age-relevant approaches to support their work-life balance. Employers should also consider allocating resources to support work-life balance across the lifespan of their employees.

Encouraging work-life balance can lead to lower levels of anxiety and depression and help staff find lasting job satisfaction. It is important for older workers themselves to understand what drives and diminishes their own work-life balance, as it is a significant predictor of well-being. After all, workers aged 55 and over could be considered “older” workers for many more years to come.

In conclusion, work-life balance is a complex issue, especially for older workers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and it is important to recognize the individual needs and circumstances of each worker. By understanding and supporting work-life balance, we can create a healthier and more productive workforce for all ages.

SOURCE: Older workers still struggle with work-life balance—and there’s no one-size-fits-all remedy



1. What is work-life balance?

Work-life balance refers to the ability to effectively manage and prioritize work responsibilities alongside personal and family commitments, ensuring a sense of harmony and fulfillment in both areas of life.

2. How does work-life balance differ for older workers?

Work-life balance can differ for older workers due to factors such as employment status, family structure, financial resources, and overall well-being. It is important to understand that older workers are not a uniform group and may require different types of support to achieve work-life balance.

3. Can work-life balance affect well-being at work?

Yes, work-life balance has a significant impact on well-being at work. High levels of work-life balance can lead to lower levels of job stress, anxiety, and depression, resulting in greater job satisfaction and overall well-being.

4. Does work-life balance change as workers age?

Yes, our research shows that work-life balance changes as workers age. While the benefits of work-life balance were strongest among younger older workers (aged 55-59), they remained significant as employees aged. Older workers who were eligible for retirement but still working reported a reduction in job stress with greater work-life balance.

5. How can employers support work-life balance for older workers?

Employers can support work-life balance for older workers by developing age-relevant approaches and allocating resources accordingly. It is crucial for managers to understand the individual needs and circumstances of older workers and provide appropriate support to enhance their work-life balance.

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Work-life balance, Older workers, Job satisfaction

Work–life balance
In the intersection of work and personal life, the work–life balance is the equilibrium between the two. There are many aspects of one's personal life that can intersect with work, including family, leisure, and health. A work–life balance is bidirectional; for instance, work can interfere with private life, and private...
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Discouraged worker
In economics, a discouraged worker is a person of legal employment age who is not actively seeking employment or who has not found employment after long-term unemployment, but who would prefer to be working. This is usually because an individual has given up looking, hence the term "discouraged". A discouraged...
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Job satisfaction
Job satisfaction, employee satisfaction or work satisfaction is a measure of workers' contentment with their job, whether they like the job or individual aspects or facets of jobs, such as nature of work or supervision. Job satisfaction can be measured in cognitive (evaluative), affective (or emotional), and behavioral components. Researchers...
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