What is Burnout?
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Recognising and treating Burnout

Burnout is the end of the stress spectrum. Essentially it is chronic stress that has built up to unmanageable levels and presents itself as over stimulation both psychologically and physiologically which results in tension.

Stress is a normal part of life. We experience it, to varying degrees, almost every single day. But when things really start to feel overwhelming, you’ll likely notice stress starting to affect your physical health. Maslach & Jackson state there are two generalised categories of stress. There is acute stress which is the body’s reaction to a short term stressful event. On the other hand chronic stress, otherwise known as Burnout, is usually a result of ongoing psychological or environmental demands, such as work, monetary problems, marital conflict, etc. Many studies have shown that stress responds well to interventions that work with the mind like Mindfulness and Yoga.

In Burnout, the acute sympathetic response, which is basically a fight-or-flight [reaction], gradually diminishes, but the cortisol levels remain high—which in the long-term can have adverse effects on the body. The long-term effects of stress in whatever form can negatively impact our bodies if we don’t use tactics that will keep it at bay. Maslach & Jackson claim the best way to beat stress is to become better at recognising the signs so that you can take action earlier. It has also been shown that Burnout is prevented when a person has a routine that helps you prevent the build-up of stress; like a regular Mindfulness or Yoga practice. Prevention really is better than cure.

 

Mindfulness

 

The signs of stress

After One Day

General symptoms are irritability, increased heart rate and difficulty concentrating.  Some people might experience fatigue. The overall consensus from experts is that your body can withstand a singular stressful day just fine. Using a simple Mindfulness exercise, like the body-scan meditation, for 5 minutes a day removes these symptoms. So a person is back to a normal functioning state. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning or just before bed.

After One Week

One week of stress makes us prone to viral infections, cold sore outbreaks, acute stress, and sleep deprivation. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with sleep, which can result in poor memory, lowered defence of the immune system, depression, fatigue, and weight gain.

While your body can probably endure bouts of stress every so often, elevated cortisol levels can make individuals prone to getting sick more often. A good example of this is an increased risk of viral and bacterial infections when someone has been working long hours to meet a deadline then gets a terrible cold.

Research into Yoga has proven that the stretches in Yoga release both psychological and physiological tension. Just going to one Yoga class a week for a minimum of 60 minutes can make a difference. It has the power to release most of the toxins and stress tension that has built up. This will relieve the symptoms and reset the body back to a restful state.

After One Month

If you’re constantly feeling high levels of stress, you may notice both psychological and physical symptoms of Burnout. You may begin feeling irritable, tightness in your body, a change in your appetite, and start having anxious thoughts.  Maslach & Jackson confirm that Burnout is characterised by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. In practice, this means that a person can seem exhausted and become cynical and detached. Burnout can also cause patchy hair loss, diarrhoea, or constipation. It is also said to be responsible for chronic gut issues as well as abdominal pain and bloating.

At this stage, this is where using both a cognitive and physiological approach is needed. The mind is overstimulated and the body is physically stressed. Over the last 4 years, researchers have tested Mindfulness combined with Yoga to treat both forms of the stress condition. Mindfulness exercises that work on conditioning the left hemisphere of the pre-frontal cortex like Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy exercises aimed at thought relationships have proven to be effective at de-regulating mental stress. Certain Hatha Yoga stretches have proven just as effective at reducing physiological stress. The interesting thing about these studies has shown that when Yoga is used with Mindfulness participants have scored far higher for Mindfulness scores compared to when Mindfulness is only present.

After Six Months

If you’re constantly stressed out, you could experience all of those symptoms and reach a full-blown case of chronic Burnout. You might feel a lack of enjoyment, become really pessimistic, and unconsciously isolate yourself from others. Burnout is responsible for people not being able to go to work. Those people often look to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. Burnout is serious and has also been linked to joint pain and development of arthritis in the long-term. Increased blood pressure and your risk of heart attack and stroke is dramatically increased if you reach a state of Burnout.

If things have reached this stage a person will recover quickly if they are referred to a Mindfulness & Yoga for Burnout programme. This treatment will use a combination of elements that are known to be effective at lowering perceived stress and increasing emotional resilience. Which is what’s needed for a person to make a full recovery. The good news is that this course lasts just 8 weeks. 70% of all people who have attended these courses have recovered from Burnout.

 

For more information on treating Burnout or the Mindfulness & Yoga for Burnout programme please contact john@satis.org.uk.

 

Wellness and Mental Health

John Earls


Director of Therapy at Satis - The Mindfulness Movement


Mindfulness for Lawyers
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Increased awareness of mental health problems within the legal profession has led many firms to introduce wellbeing programmes. One practice that has gained in popularity in recent years is mindfulness. The benefits of mindfulness are universal to all professions. There is a reason though, that Mindfulness is a skill that is particularly advantageous to lawyers.

 

Mindfulness

 

Firstly, lawyers are centred on people-related skills and tasks that use a high degree of emotional intelligence. Allowing them to understand their client and their opponent’s psychology to win their cases. Mindful awareness of emotions can help lawyers avoid getting sucked into the reactive state of fight or flight response that can get activated in a fight against an opponent. Mindfulness helps to maintain this objectivity by downregulating the emotional response. So that the situation is not perceived as a threat.

Unfortunately, lawyers are so used to living in a stressed state they accept the feelings as their normal. This constant adrenaline state could be responsible for the results in The Junior Lawyers Division’s 2019 Resilience and Wellbeing survey. This survey reported that over 93% of respondents felt stressed in their role the month before completing the survey, with almost a quarter being severely or extremely stressed. Importantly, over 77% of the respondents felt that their firm could do more to tackle stress at work and that stress was negatively impacting upon their personal lives.

 

Mindfulness in Practice

The above survey’s highlighted a problem that the legal profession had known all along – that the culture was damaging not only to health but also to the results for clients. The answer to solving the adversarial fight or flight culture was not clear until mindfulness began to be introduced to law firms.

Mindful awareness is an antidote to the adversarial nature of the legal profession. It helps to provide a natural breathing space in which we can see things more dispassionately.  In this space, it provides the time to respond in a more reflective way that both looks after our own interests and takes into wise consideration the other side’s interests. Taking this further, this enhanced ability to understand human interactions can lead to a more holistic meeting of the minds between opposing parties. In other words, it leads to better and more robust agreements and resolutions.

Indeed, since mindfulness has been introduced to law firms it has been a massive hit. For example, the international law firm Dentons appointed its first chief mindfulness officer. Other firms and chambers also look set to follow suit, with the growth of wellbeing committees, officers and other mindful initiatives, such as the Mindful Business Charter. Mindfulness has also gradually found its way to the bar. Following the first Wellbeing at the Bar report in 2015, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn held mindfulness sessions for barristers – the first such wellbeing initiatives in this field. In 2018, the Mindfulness in Law group was created as a resource for all legal professionals and others working in the legal industry to learn and deepen their mindfulness practice and promote wellbeing and mindfulness education within the profession. The group now meets monthly in London with the support of the Law Society. Alongside the initiatives taken by firms across the country, the institutional framework of mindfulness is strengthening as the Bar Council and Law Society recognise its importance.

 

Mindfulness legal research

Currently, empirical research on how practising mindfulness affects members of the profession is thin on the ground. There are growing calls for more professional-specific research which is currently being tested and researched in universities throughout the world. The evidence soon will catch up with the results that are been seen practically. What is known currently is that regular mindfulness meditation can enhance self-awareness and interpersonal relationships. These have been shown to have a dramatic effect on a lawyers’ stress levels, their ability to concentrate at work and their personal lives.

Many leading law firms are now appointing mindfulness programmes. This is because they recognise the positive effect mindfulness has upon their staff, their clients and their services. If you haven’t already done so, why don’t you bring a mindfulness session to your practice? So you can experience the power of mindfulness for your firm. As part of research into this area, it would be good to have a list of law firms who would be happy to be a part of mindfulness research.

Would your firm like to participate in enhancing the body of research contributing to mindfulness at work? Then please send an email to the address below and it can be arranged for your firm to be involved. Likewise, if you would like to experience the Mindfulness for Lawyers programme – a mindfulness programme developed just for lawyers with lawyer based outcomes in mind – then also send an email to the address below.

For more information please email john@satis.org.uk or visit www.satis.org.uk

 

Wellness and Mental Health

John Earls


Director of Therapy at Satis - The Mindfulness Movement


How Human Resources Can Help Employees Return to Work After COVID-19
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

By late May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had led to millions of jobless claims and a very gloomy jobs forecast for the upcoming summer months. The staggering situation was unprecedented and with good reason. The artificial expulsion of workers from their workplaces was always meant to be a temporary solution, designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus throughout the world.

While the effects of government policies will be judged by history, in the here and now employers and HR representatives are faced with the difficult task of resuming operations while maintaining the “new normal.” If you’re facing this unpleasant prospect, below are several suggestions to help you stay focused and on track as you help to shepherd your workforce back into an office space that is as safe and secure as possible.

 

lockdown lifting

 

Be the Blueprint

Human Resource managers play an essential role in the functionality of an office. They serve as a crossroads of executive objectives, employee safety, and legal expectations. As such, it falls to HR reps to step up and guide an office through its re-entry to normal work. As a leading figure in this process, it’s important that HR managers to provide a blueprint for how office activity should look as it resumes.

For instance, legally you should be very familiar with the reopening plans — and possible adjustments over time — associated with your particular region. You should also consider safety precautions such as bathroom sterilization, social distancing rules, and maximum occupancy as operations resume.

In addition, bring up the tough questions like who should come back first, who should follow later, and who might be able to stay in a remote work situation indefinitely. Ensure that your office has clear rules regarding what employees are to do if they’re sick, how long they should avoid the physical office if that is the case, and how they should report their condition.

The point is, as the HR rep, it’s important that you place yourself at the centre of the action where management, employees, and the law meet. This should be done with an eye towards overseeing the process of resuming business both safely and effectively.

 

Supporting Wellbeing, Not Just Health

As you consider the safety and wellbeing of your staff, it’s important to remember to approach this in a holistic manner. For instance, just because an employee is physically okay doesn’t mean they’re mentally healthy or emotionally sound.

With so much stress, fear, and general paranoia circulating, it’s important to ensure that your employees — whether on-site or remote —  have ample access to information and resources. Do they have a clear understanding of new social distancing rules? Do they understand how their health care policies work in the event that they fall ill?

If they’re struggling internally, do they have mental and emotional health resources to help them in times of stress? Hundreds of thousands of workers regularly suffer from depression whether there’s an ongoing pandemic or not. With so much trepidation in the air, it’s vital that you provide a lifeline for those employees that are in genuine need.

As you flesh these things out, it’s wise to also encourage employees themselves to buy-in to new practices and policies for their own well-being. This will help to combat an atmosphere of fear and replace it with one of solidarity.

 

Consider Your Environment

As you reopen, safety and functionality will doubtlessly be at the front of your mind. However, you should also give a little attention to things like the emotional impact of your office environment.

Workplaces affect mental health through things such as lighting, temperature, noise, and even your desk and chair. These seemingly minor environmental factors can significantly impact your overall stress and distraction levels  — and, consequentially, your productivity as well.

Look for ways to increase the peacefulness and mindfulness of your workspace, from opening blinds to adjusting the temperature or even utilizing some essential oils.

 

Unlearning Remote Work Habits

Finally, make sure to approach employees with an understanding mindset as they unlearn any unhealthy remote work habits they may have picked up in the last few months.

Employees may have gotten used to unsafe remote desktop protocol measures. They may be utilizing unsecured network connections or working with unapproved company software. This is an understandable problem to occur as staff members shift to working on the fly from a home office. However, these concerns must be addressed and corrected once everyone is back in the office for the long-term.

Coworkers also may have struggled with maintaining work-life balance — either in a lazy sense or in a workaholic sense. In either case, HR should be there to help them readjust to typical expectations while working in the office.

 

Shepherding Your Office Through Major Transitions

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime event. However, the responsibility that it lays on HR reps is nothing new.

Human Resources is always meant to be a source of information. They are a diplomatic voice of reason and a guiding light through tough times. As an HR rep, it’s important that you embrace this responsibility with boldness and fervour. Support your coworkers and help to guide their actions. Ensure that everyone is on the same page as you all navigate this strange new world together.

 

Wellness and Mental Health

Luke Smith


Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. When he isn't writing you can find him travelling, hiking, or gaming.


THE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS IS COMING
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Centre for Mental Health says that the Covid-19 is a health emergency like nothing else in living memory. It has already been widely recognised that the pandemic will have major effects on mental as well as physical health. The evidence the Centre for Mental Health has reviewed shows that this must be taken seriously. Centre for Mental Health says that we need to be prepared for a rise in the number of people experiencing poor mental health, both short-term and potentially for some time to come.

 

stress management

 

Future Implications

 

The global Covid-19 pandemic is likely to increase the number of people in Britain experiencing a mental health problem in the next two years. To levels far greater than the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis. If the recession that follows the economic effects of the virus is similar to 2008, about half a million more people will experience a mental health difficulty over the next year, according to an estimate by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. But if there is a second wave of Covid-19 and the economy is damaged further, the effects on mental health will be greater still, and last much longer.

These negative mental health effects are not just limited to people who are worried about their own employment. It is thought that there will be other stresses and strains. Brought about by the worry surrounding loved ones losing their jobs, health concerns and outlook for the future. Overall, even though we have the initial shock of the pandemic it is important we look after our mental health now. So that we are not brought down by the mental health hangover that is likely to come in the next few months.

 

Returning to work

 

The advice being given to companies returning to work is that although you might be feeling okay now it is likely there will be an after effect. Worries about finances, health concerns and loved ones can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed.  This can represent itself in feelings of heightened anxiety, hypervigilance, fear and loss of meaning. You may have gotten so used to these feelings that they feel normal. However, the best advice is to introduce something into your life now that can help prevent future mental health issues developing. One of the most effective treatments in the workplace for stress and anxiety is Mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness has been proven to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. It also increases feelings of positivity and resiliency to future stresses. Mindfulness helps by teaching us that we can’t control what happens with the coronavirus or the economy. But we can control how we respond to it. It does this through a series of exercises designed to reset your thinking patterns.  So that you are better able to choose how you respond to any given situation. Mindfulness techniques are simple to do and easy to implement into a working day. This is one of the reasons they have become the most popular method to improve mental health in the workplace.

To learn more about mindfulness at work please contact john@satis.org.uk.

 

Wellness and Mental Health

John Earls


Director of Therapy at Satis - The Mindfulness Movement


Kindfulness
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

People often ask me why Mindfulness is so important to Mental Health Awareness. Some people are confused by Mindfulness and think it is simply a present moment non-judgmental awareness, as researchers say. But to develop the beautiful peace, gentleness, and stillness of meditation, a kindly awareness is required or, as termed by the renowned monk, Ajahn Brahm, we should develop Kindfulness!

I think rather than using the word mindfulness, perhaps kindfulness is better—it reminds you to be forgiving and friendly as you practice.

Mindfulness without kindness becomes dry, boring, and cold. Kindness without mindfulness is hard to imagine. How can you be kind if you’re not aware of what you’re being kind to? Most good meditation teachers encourage a warm, kind, and friendly awareness.

 

Mindfulness

 

How to Apply Kindness to your Daily Practice

Kindfulness is not just for stress. You can also apply Kindfulness to your daily practice.

Begin by noticing the effect of your practice, whatever that is—meditation, yoga, mindful movement, jogging, consciously swimming backwards with one arm. Whatever your thing is, notice how you feel afterwards.

Then try these simple steps:

As you’re meditating, place your hand on your heart. The warmth of your hand encourages a compassionate feeling to whatever you’re focusing on.

Smile (please). This is mindful time for you, not self-torture. And if you can’t smile, use your two fingers to push up the corners of your mouth and hold them there for a while….I’m serious!

Pay attention to whatever your focus is, using your heart, not just your head. Feel the breath with emotion if you can, rather than noticing the sensation in a cold, non-judgmental way.

 

I am interested to hear how you mix mindfulness with kindness? What practices work best for you personally? Please let me know in your own time 🙂

 

John Earls

Director of Therapy at Satis

John Earls


Director of Therapy at Satis - The Mindfulness Movement


Mental Health – Lets Keep Talking
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Most people will not have to suffer from severe mental health issues, depression, anxiety or suffer a full meltdown during their lifetime. But one in 4 of us will.

Thankfully, the stigma surrounding mental health is now being addressed and our attitudes are changing. Individuals can get the support that they need and be treated properly if they reach out.  It took many courageous individuals to stand up and be personally exposed in order to change perception and attitude.

We must never let mental health issues suffer the same stigma that it did in the past.  Only by maintaining an open dialogue and enabling sufferers to speak and share their personal stories without fear of repercussions, can we continue to increase awareness. We all have a role to play, even those of us that are lucky enough to have avoided any personal suffering.

 

stress management

 

I read one such individual story this week and wanted to share. Jonathan Trott, England international cricketing legend opened up about his return from England’s 2013-14 Ashes tour.

Whilst discussing mental health in an interview on Sky Sports, he revealed, that he had wrestled with his own problems.

 

Jonathan Trott: “The job I loved, filled me with dread”

 

Jonathan Trott

 

Speaking during Mental Health Awareness Week, the batsman revealed he began to experience symptoms of anxiety during the home Ashes series in 2013.

But Trott’s issues came to a head in Australia. Where he had scored 445 runs and two centuries during England’s Ashes triumph in 2010-11. When he flew home after the first Test in Brisbane.

In the show, Trott told host Nick Knight: “It was building. I probably realised during the home Ashes of 2013-14.

Understanding the signs

 

“I remember being at Durham for the fourth Test and not able to concentrate, which was something I pride myself on.

“There was something missing and going to The Oval I knew I was in a little bit of trouble, not wanting to play. That’s when the whole anxiety of putting the tracksuit on and going to the ground was triggered.

“The skill of playing cricket was something I was starting to dread, which I had loved my whole life until then. It was terrifying as it felt so foreign and you are so exposed with cameras everywhere. It was tricky to get some alone time and make sense of it all.

“I remember saying I wanted to play [in the ODI series against Australia that followed the 2013 Ashes] to get back into form before Australia, whereas now if I hadn’t played in that series I wonder if my career may have been a bit longer.

“I tried to fight my way through on the field and live up to the standards I had set for myself, which were pretty high.” He continued ”I was fine at the hotel, away from the ground – it was only going to the Test matches where the scrutiny was.”

“I did pretty well in the warm-up games but going to Brisbane was different. Another level that I had never experienced. I remember going down to breakfast with my cap over my eyes. Trying to sit away from the other guys hoping they wouldn’t see I was pretty emotional eating my cornflakes.

Getting the right support

 

“Coming back from Australia we said I had a stress-related illness. To me, that didn’t seem good enough for the press. It was a bit grey. But the reason for that was that we weren’t sure exactly what was going on.”

“I wanted to be as honest and open as possible. But when people want you to say 24 hours later what’s going on, it’s impossible.” He goes on to say ”I only got properly diagnosed five months later, in early April.”

Trott says he attempted to return to cricket with county side Warwickshire too soon. He only began the road to recovery after linking up with renowned sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters. Dr Peters has worked with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.

The 39-year-old retired from cricket in 2018. He implores anyone suffering from mental health problems to seek face-to-face help where possible, insisting it makes a huge difference.

Good advice – let’s keep talking.

Mark Stephens


Mark has established a reputation for his passion and enthusiasm over twenty years working in the recruitment industry, both client and agency side. For the last ten years, he has been researching the recruitment landscape from both a technology and people perspective. His insights into market trends are often used and quoted across the industry’s leading publications. His company, Smart Recruit Online, has been the winner of 5 international awards for technology innovation and Recruitment Technology in the last 18 months. And currently holds the accolade of filling more jobs from direct applications for their clients than any other online recruitment service in the UK.


Essential Online Mindfulness for Work
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

Mindfulness for your team

When organizations invest in preventive and supportive mental health solutions, a little goes a long way. Employees should not need to travel to access the resources they need to cope with and reduce stress. Mindfulness training can be done online or through a mobile app, making it accessible to almost everyone. Research shows that Mindfulness accessed online is as beneficial to the majority of participants as doing Mindfulness in person.

Recent studies into the effects of Mindfulness show it can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and isolation brought on by being stressed and isolated working at home. Megan Bell Jones, Chief Science Officer at Headspace says “Our brains have developed to focus on the threat. Short-term stress and anxiety can be part of a healthy range of emotional experience. At times they can even help us stay safe”. What Mindfulness does is helps us to stop focusing on the symptoms of threat so our central nervous system can relax.

 

stress management

 

Physical health

However, when we experience chronic stress from working at home it can tax our immune system. Working at home with not being able to leave work at work at the end of the day. Experts feel this scenario is being made worse by working from home as there is no element of leaving the office. We are permanently at work. This can cause more severe problems like anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. This threat reflex that releases powerful hormones like cortisol acts like a drug and keeps us hooked to news cycles and fuels chronic stress.

 

Support & prevention

There are different forms of help for stress, anxiety and depression. Meditation helps deactivate the emotional center of the brain which is responsible for emotional reactivity. So in effect, you can detach from that part of you through medication but this does not help to address the root cause of the condition. When we help our brains stay grounded we are better able to engage the rational part of our brains. This can help us understand information and make decisions from a place of fact versus panic. Mindfulness works by helping people regulate emotions, changing the brain to be more resilient to stress, and improving stress biomarkers. This process effectively changes the structure of the brain meaning that our brains develop during Mindfulness; changing to be more resilient to the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.

A good Mindfulness programme is easy to set up, cost-effective and accessible online. During COVID19 it is essential employees and employers look after their mental health to ensure they are ready to bounce back quickly from COVID19. For more information on Mindfulness visit www.satis.org.uk or email john@satis.org.uk.

About the Author:

For the last five years I have studied an undergraduate degree and masters in Psychology and Mindfulness (MSc). This has led me to continue this research through a PhD at Warwick University. During these 5 years I have taught Yoga and Mindfulness as a full-time job to businesses. My hard work was rewarded with a contract to work as a lecturer teaching wellbeing, Mindfulness and Yoga courses throughout Coventry for Coventry Council.

John Earls


Director of Therapy at Satis - The Mindfulness Movement


Are You Too Old? Overcoming Ageism At Work
Danielle Meakin - 6 Comments - 29 Sep 2019

When you think of a typical tech worker, what mental image comes into your head? If the image was of a man in his late 20s, wearing designer clothes, trainers, and maybe goofing about playing ping-pong or snooker on his lunch break — then you might have just experienced a subconscious nod to ageism.

At the same time, you can be forgiven. Because this mental picture is also largely correct. Most tech workers really are that young. In fact, they are even younger. Apart from Google’s average working force at the ripe old age of 30. Other tech giants have demographics with median ages as young as 27, 28 and 29 years of age (that is AOL, Facebook and LinkedIn respectively).

So, why do tech companies only seem to favour the very young?

 

Ageism as a narrative 

The tech companies have long been suspected of ageism. But the truth is this discrimination isn’t so much of a suspicion as it is an overt mentality. As the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg put it so succinctly back in 2007: “young people are just smarter”.

The overarching philosophy among tech companies appears to be that millennials are the cultural epicentre for Big Tech. Ageist discrimination is, according to Gareth Jones, the CEO of the UK-based tech company Headstart, even worse when it comes to the computer coding side of things. For some reason, ageism flies under the discrimination radar. The reason the sort of ageing culture described here is allowed to persist is, is because it just doesn’t seem as sensitive of an issue next to other discriminations — such as those to do with gender and race.

The apparent ubiquitous nature of ageism in our tech culture — and our wider working culture at large — has even prompted the director of operations at Age Diversity Forum, Paul Owen, to refer to it as “the biggest area of bias [today] receiving the lowest level of attention”.

 

Ageism as a ticking time-bomb

Ageism might be pervasive, but it cannot last forever. It is an unsustainable discrimination. The reason being is that our society is ageing. In order to remain functional, Big Tech will not only have to open its doors to older employees, it will also have to fight to retain them.

The UK government’s own figures predict that by 2025 a third of the workforce will be 50 years or older. By the end of the decade, they will actually be the largest demographic. In some areas, we can already see the ageing demographic creeping up. For example, the average age for workers in mining and quarrying is a few decimal points shy of 45 years old. While the median age for a UK engineer, in general, is 42.

Fortunately, some businesses are starting to get wise of the impending tsunami of older workers. They are reconsidering age-old preconceptions about what it means to be young and old in a place of work. In a sobering series of surveys, the company Aviva discovered that about half of its 60-years-and-older employees did not want to retire. They only considered retiring because they felt pressured to do so, due to their age. On top of that, nearly 40 per cent reported ageism to be a real barrier to progress.

But there was some good news. In fact, the most interesting statistic the Aviva surveys picked up was this one: that people in their 60s generally appear more motivated at work than their 40 and 50-year-old counterparts.

 

Ageism and the “missing million” workforce

New studies, like the Aviva surveys with their surprising conclusions, are helping to open new doors on how we look at the bigger picture. Of how society, age, and work all interact with one another. An important cultural shift occurred in 2017 with the government’s “Fuller Working Lives” report from the Department for Work and Pensions.

In the report, it was recognised that nearly a million unemployed over-50-year-olds would be keen on returning to work if the right support mechanisms were in place. That is, a standing army of a million people ready to fill skills shortages and bring invaluable corporate memory with them back into the economy. “Corporate Memory” being a buzzword for the lifetime of knowledge that older workers no doubt have.

This “missing million” might even be a necessary lifeline for some sectors. For example, the UK engineering sector has been haemorrhaging employees for over four years and is facing a steep recruitment crisis.

 

Talent attraction

 

Strategies for overcoming ageism 

The recruitment crisis might explain why some engineering companies are already one step ahead of the game. They have actively changed their working hours and recruitment policies to attract veteran employees.

One example is Tideway, the company currently building a ‘Super Sewer’ under the Thames River in London. Tideway established a so-called ‘Returner’ programme back in 2015, that allows over-55s to transition slowly back into work. Another example can be found with the company Landmarc, which sources a quarter of all its labour from over-55s. It mostly recruits former military workers who already have a good knowledge of engineering. Both Landmarc and Tideway utilise flexible hours and transition phases to draw in the older crowds.

Another, more universal option, might be to bring in what’s known as a “Midlife MOT”. This phrase has its origins as a seemingly unremarkable comment — with barely a paragraph of its own — in the government’s Independent Review Of The State Pension Age report of 2017. A Midlife MOT basically gives over-45s a mixture of face-to-face consultations, lectures, access to e-learning tools, and even financial advice to prepare them for the next career-phase of life.

When Aviva introduced the Midlife MOT to its own staff, it was an enormous success with a 94 per cent enrolment rate. The enthusiasm here speaks volumes. It suggests that ageing workers really are looking for support to help orientate themselves for better working prospects.

Other strategies involve further challenging our preconceptions. At the beginning of this article, you were asked to think of a typical tech worker. Now think of a typical apprentice. The chances are, you thought of someone barely out of school. But actually, most apprentices tend to be a fair bit older. Over 40 per cent of them are 25 years or older, for example. It is now becoming more common for apprentices to be in their 50s or 60s. In fact, learning as an apprentice can be a great opportunity for an older worker as they start to ease their transition out of full-time work. Allowing them to learn new skills in other or similar job roles.

Finally, we should learn to avoid certain buzzwords that are ageist in nature. Sometimes without us even realising it. Terms such as “recent graduate” or “digital native” in job descriptions, for example. They are essentially a way of saying if you are old don’t bother, we haven’t even thought about you.

 

Undoing ageism

Like all societal struggles for change, confining ageism to the history books will not be easy. It also won’t disappear overnight. But by educating ourselves to the challenge, spreading the message to others, and showing our support and encouraging strategies like those listed above, ageism will be undone quicker than we might realise.

This article was written by Neil Wright, a writer and researcher for RJ Lifts, an lift engineering and maintenance company located in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. 

 

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Neil Wright


This article was written by Neil Wright of Webster Wheelchairs, one of the NHS’s leading suppliers of wheelchairs, rollators, and other elderly and disability-friendly eq


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