The rocking chairs are sitting idle. The knitting is being left in the drawer. Ocean cruises are being postponed.
America’s retirees are unretiring, and video conferencing is helping them do it. Whether through necessity, an unfulfilled desire for meaningful work, or the opportunity to share their experience with the emerging generations, many older Americans are giving retirement a brief try and then returning to the workforce.
Whatever the motivation, retirees working from home and keeping their rich experience in the workforce is both good for the economy and a potential boon for small businesses in need of expert guidance. The movement is being driven in part by the rise of flexible working conditions and the accessibility of remote communications, such as video conferencing, that allow employees to work remotely from home and maintain a healthier work/life balance.
It may seem a little scary to imagine yourself plugging away at work well after your 65th birthday, but it’s good to know that if the head is willing, technology can keep the body able.
Necessity and Boredom
There’s no denying the fact that the chief reason people return to work after retirement is financial. The rise in unretirees coincides with a reported widespread shortfall in retirement savings. A recent study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies found that American workers’ median retirement savings was $71,000. That figure is well short of the amount the average worker needs to retire comfortably, and goes hand-in-hand with bankruptcy rates that are five times higher among older citizens than they were in the early 1990s.
On the flip side, the second most common reason for unretirement, one cited by 44% of senior Americans returning to the workforce, is simple boredom. These are people who have formally retired from work but found themselves unfulfilled by the open schedule of life outside the office. For them, returning to work is a choice.
In both instances, alternative working practices and platforms such as video conferencing are making it easier to re-enter the workforce.
The Unretired Favor Remote Work
Though telecommuting is generally assumed to be a way to accommodate younger generations of digital natives, a Bureau of Economic Research report found that older people are almost twice as likely to access alternative work arrangements as their descendants. It might be a surprise, but the average age of a person working from home via video conferencing is around 49, much closer to retirement than their first big break.
The same applies to the digitally driven gig economy. This new form of short-term, freelance employment has exploded by taking advantage of global connections and opportunities online and often involves remote work. Yet, more than 30% of Americans who work in the gig economy were born before 1965.
Furthermore, the accessibility of working from home and accessing e-commerce online has encouraged a growing number of older Americans to start their own businesses. Almost a quarter of new businesses are started by people between the ages of 55 and 64.
This is all good news for an aging U.S. population that will soon consist of around 20% retirees. Retaining skilled labor is going to become crucial as gaps in the economy emerge due to an imbalance in experienced professionals. As we’ve seen in the healthcare industry and the teaching profession, for example, there just aren’t enough new employees entering the workforce to negate the effect of so many older people moving on to retirement.
One of the best ways to retain the expertise of an aging workforce is to put it to work mentoring the next generation.
Retirees Working from Home by Mentoring
VC Daily has touched on the subject of online mentoring programs using video conference before, and it is a perfect example of how technology can help us retain the brightest minds in our workforce. The methodology and advantages of business mentoring remain consistent today as they were before the digital revolution. Now, however, close working relationships between experienced and novice business minds aren’t restricted by physical proximity.
With an inexpensive video conferencing connection and a quiet place to converse–and you can set up a home office for only a few hundred dollars these days–it’s possible to hold face-to-face meetings with anyone in the world with an internet connection. That makes it easy for emerging businesses to embrace the alternative work hours and incentives of older workers and reap the rewards of their knowledge.
There is clearly a desire among retirees to return to the working fold, and technologies such as video conferencing are providing the means to make it possible.
Whether they’re acting as paid employees putting in a few full days a week, or as consultants on call to provide guidance through stressful and complex times, reaching out to older Americans willing and able to re-enter the workforce could be a major asset for small businesses.
There is clearly a desire among retirees to return to the working fold, and technologies such as video conferencing are providing the means to make it possible. You may not want to be working into your 80s, but the digital age we live in means that if you do, you can.