Defining Extended Work
There are many ways to address the risk and reality of premature retirement. Some aging workers simply want to continue working in their current roles on a full-time basis. A variety of modifications can enable them to continue to make maximum contribution. These can include assured access to well-managed flexible schedules, the minor redesign of some elements of a position or the elimination of supervisory or travel responsibilities.
As with all of these options for aging workers, there is an underlying dynamic at play. Employers and managers typically approach staffing and scheduling decisions on a predictable basis: they tend to do what they have always done. This often means seeing 50+ employees as a depreciating asset whose knowledge and experience may not be recognized or valued.
The negotiation for any form of extended work or flexible and phased retirement is based on a simple exchange: you commit to redesigning your job and sharing valuable knowledge with the organization and it commits to extending time on the job and creating a superior path to retirement. Because this is a full-time option, compensation and benefits are likely to be unchanged.
The processes and forms on this site can help you frame your preferred schedule in light of your unique situation.
The availability of flexible work schedules varies greatly across and within employers. Much of the impetus for these schedules (flextime, work from home, compressed schedules) comes from younger employees trying to balance work and family demands. It is not common to see companies offering greater flexibility to their aging workforce.
Yet access to broader and consistent flexibility can greatly enhance the ability of aging workers to sustain superior performance. The pressures that drive employees of all ages to seek flexible schedules – endless commutes, rigid hours and occasional caregiving demands – can be heightened for the aging workforce.
Flexible Schedule Options to Consider
The ability to adjust start and quit times can allow employees to conform their schedules to their most productive times, accommodate some caregiving demands and avoid the worst commute times. Such fluidity can make working additional years far easier.
Work from Home
The ability to work from home on a regular basis can be a highly desirable option for aging knowledge workers whose responsibilities can often be accomplished as well offsite as onsite. The benefits of eliminating taxing commutes and scheduling work at the most productive times are obvious. The frequency of such arrangements can range from occasional to nearly all the time.
For those looking to extended work as part of the path to gradual retirement, compressed schedules can offer an opportunity to create distinct blocks of fewer days at work and more days off. Depending on the enthusiasm and responsibilities of the person, common options can include a four-day week of longer hours each day or one day off over two weeks of slightly longer days.
To sustain valuable contributions to your employer, and extend your years at work, it can be helpful to revisit the current definition and prioritization of your essential tasks with an eye to eliminating lower value work and enhancing your unique value. The Work Redesign process described in the Planning section allows you to do this in a systematic way.
Whether you use the tool and process described or a customized version, the purpose here is to “shake things up”, to disrupt the view that you are moving along unchanged on a predictable conveyor belt that ends in premature retirement. The incentive for change is in your hands.
Another way to modify your value is to substitute activities that might have become burdensome to you but could prove developmental for colleagues, including newer employees. Mentoring others to assume some supervisorial and travel responsibilities could begin to prepare others for your eventual departure and allow you to focus on areas of particular strength. It would also allow you to have time to accomplish systematic knowledge transfer.