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December 20, 2022

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Age divide emerging in UK workforce when it comes to workplace wellbeing, according to new research

New research among line managers and employees by Working To Wellbeing, a return-to-work rehabilitation company, warns that a divide is emerging in the workforce between older and younger employees when it comes to attitudes to wellbeing in the workplace.

Working To Wellbeing’s new Window to the Workplace research found that one in five (19%) line managers aged 55+ do not think that supporting their colleagues’ wellbeing is an integral or important part of their day-to-day job, compared to only 7% of younger line managers. Furthermore, an additional 19% of those aged 55+ are on the fence and just 62% do agree that it is a part of their role (compared to 18% and 74% respectively among line managers aged 18-34 years).

The data suggests that over a fifth of older line managers struggle to talk to their teams about their mental health and wellbeing as 22% of those aged 55+ say it doesn’t “comes easily to them”, compared to 11% of those aged under-34 and 13% aged 35-54.

By 2025, there will be one million more people aged 50+ and 300,000 fewer people 30 and under in the workplace and one in three of the working age population will be 50+. The number of over-50s either in work or looking for work has recently reached pre-pandemic levels with more than one in 10 retirees saying they would consider going back to work because of the increased cost of living.

Working To Wellbeing also found that just over two in three (68%) line managers aged 55+ (and 67% of those aged 35-54) believe they have good experience in supporting their colleagues with their wellbeing in the workplace compared to 76% of those aged under 34. In addition, 35% of younger managers (aged under 35) “strongly agree” they have the experience needed, vs just 23% of 35–44-year-olds and 21% of line managers aged 55+.

The research suggests that there is also a (perceived) age divide when it comes to access to training and resources which may be impacting the way line managers view their ability and confidence to manage wellbeing issues in the workplace. Older line managers say they feel less supported and equipped to support their teams on their overall wellbeing, as only one in two aged 55+ (49%) think they have received sufficient training from their employer, compared to almost two-thirds (63%) of those aged 18-34. And only 17% of over 55s “strongly agree” they have sufficient training vs almost double that (32%) among under-34s.

Similarly, just over half (55%) of line managers aged 55+ feel they have been equipped with sufficient resources to support their colleagues’ overall wellbeing (20% “strongly agree”) compared to 69% of those aged under-34 (28% “strongly agree”).

Older employees lack confidence more to discuss wellbeing with line managers

On the flipside, just 40% of employees aged 55+ feel happy talking to their line manager about their mental health vs 54% of under-35s and 53% of those aged 35-54, with less than half (46%) of workers aged 55+ feeling confident having a conversation with their line manager about my wellbeing at a time of crisis, compared to 65% of those aged under 35.

Dr Julie Denning, managing director, chartered health psychologist at Working To Wellbeing and Chair of the Vocational Rehabilitation Association said: “As the UK population ages and the cost-of-living soars, the multi-generational workplace will be very much the norm in the years ahead. From a workplace wellbeing perspective, it’s crucial that employers recognise the challenges, as well as the opportunities, this can bring. Our Window to the Workplace research indicates that there is a potential divide between the generations when it comes to appreciating the responsibility that a line manager is often placed with and the confidence and know-how they have to support colleagues’ wellbeing.

Line managers, who are often at the coalface and whose role is pivotal to supporting their colleagues at work – need to be equipped, confident and ready to best support their workforce. Our Line Manager Assistance Programme (LMAP) supports and equips line managers to help with their teams’ mental and physical wellbeing at work and aims to minimise the considerable burden that sits now upon a line manager’s shoulders and give them the personalised and specialist support they need.”

The Working To Wellbeing LMAP comes in response to the 2022 guidelines from NICE (a) which emphasises the importance of upskilling line managers in talking about mental health so they feel supported and skilled to perform their line management duties. This includes how to have a conversation about mental wellbeing with an employee at times of crisis, how to identify early warning signs of poor mental wellbeing and knowing where to go for further help or support in complex situations.

Working To Wellbeing’s team of clinicians can help to provide guidance & training for line managers to have conversations about their teams’ wellbeing at work. Working To Wellbeing’s Line Manager Assistance Programme is said to include access to its Line Manager Helpline offering ‘reliable and expert’ advice to provide reassurance when managing colleagues, as well as training and help for line managers to create return-to-work plans and wellbeing plans for people returning to work.

The Line Manager Assistance Programme is available to new and existing clients and Working To Wellbeing can support and offer fixed or bespoke solutions to both large companies and SMEs.

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