Are older workers happier workers?

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Written by Alice Withers on 11 March 2015

Research has long suggested that your happiness at work is linked to your age. Generally our happiness seems to dip mid-career, when most of us are in our thirties. Recent research by Zacher and colleagues (2014) has suggested that this dip in happiness is linked to a feeling of increased time pressure at work and also perceived reduced support levels from colleagues.

Promotion bottlenecks tend to occur around this stage of your career, which may lead to a perceived reduction in the support received from colleagues as they compete for the same roles. Time pressure may also be linked to this bottleneck, with staff trying to set themselves apart from their colleagues by taking on extra responsibilities.

How can you find out if this is an issue in your organisation? Your first priority should be to conduct an employee engagement survey to get an overall view of the happiness of your staff. Then you can breakdown the results by age to see if there are any areas of concern. Keep the survey anonymous to help ensure you get honest results from your staff. Although it is important to include some demographic questions, be careful not to include too many or make the response categories too narrow, as this will reduce the respondents’ feeling of anonymity. It can also be helpful to run ‘pulse’ five question engagement surveys at regular points throughout the year, which help to monitor any changes in happiness follow interventions you put in place.

If you do find some areas of concern, there are a number of ways you can tackle it. Time-management training could be made available to your staff at this level, or you could organise away days to encourage team bonding and encourage staff to support one another.

Have you noticed any changes in engagement in your organisation linked to age? If so, what do you think has caused it, and what changes have you made to tackle it?

About the author
Alice Withers is a researcher at People 1st. She can be contacted at

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