Change is inevitable, but it is predicated that changes to how we work over the next five years will have the greatest human impact there has been for a generation. Achieving a happier, healthier workplace can help improve your employee engagement.
There’s no doubting that the rise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other next-gen technologies exemplify the benefits of cloud technologies. Both for people and business. But, they will also see some of us displaced from our career journey so far.
However, as individuals, we adapt to change differently, and it is important that employers consider this.
As a Physiologist at AXA PPP, I published this case study, designed to help create a Happier and Healthier Workplace.
Beyond advances in innovation, one of the changes we will see as we move beyond 2025 is in the demographic make up of the workforce.
The world’s population is ageing. Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. This also means a higher proportion of older workers than ever before.
HR teams need to prepare for the shifts associated with an ageing population to ensure progress and business objectives are achieved.
For organisations wishing to adhere to the UN sustainable development goals, there is also an obligation for “ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing at all ages, promoting gender equality and full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
As life expectancy continues to rise, so too does the retirement age for many people.
As we live longer it is suggested that we can also work longer. If we look at the UK for a moment, between 2015 and 2025, the number of people aged 65 years and older in England and Wales will increase by 19.4% (Guzman-Castillo, 2017).
To support an ageing population, we will be expected to retire later. The Office of National Statistics predicts that a (24-year-old female) can expect to live to 90 on average and receive their state pension at 68.
But a longer life expectancy does not necessarily mean more years in good health. The number living with disability is predicted to increase by 25·0% by 2025 (Guzman-Castillo, 2017).
So how can we work happier and healthier for longer?
Let’s look at Japan for inspiration. Japan is the country with the current highest life expectancy.
Learning from the Ama Divers
An example of an older, happy, healthy workforce in Japan is the Ama divers. They dive to collect seafood of the Ise-shima Peninsula. Known as the ‘women of the sea’, many of these free-diving women are in their eighties! But what is it about the Ama divers that keeps them happy, healthy and working into their eighties?
In a recent BBC documentary when asked what is the secret to living so long? the Ama divers responded: ‘We don’t worry too much. We are not stressed. It’s also good to have friends around. If you’re friends with those around you, you’re much more relaxed.’
I believe the key takeaway from the Ama divers’ response, is the importance of investing in our own and other’s wellbeing.
Furthermore, this anecdotal evidence can be backed by scientific research. Individuals with high levels of subjective wellbeing can expect to live 4-10 years longer (Diener & Chan, 2011).
So how can we boost workplace wellbeing?
Invest in our relationships. The Ama divers have a strong sense of community and social connection with each other.
The importance of quality social connections is backed by research. The Harvard study of adult development followed 724 men for 75 years and found the quality of social connections to predict future happiness, health and longevity (Simington, 2017).
Furthermore, happiness spreads through our social networks. Research shows that a nearby friend who becomes happy increases your probability of becoming happy by 63% (Fowler, & Christakis, 2008).
So, call instead of email, share a lift to work, ask a colleague how they are doing. Invest in the quality of your relationships, inside and outside of work.
Incorporate physical activity. Our jobs may not be as active as free driving. However, we can still do things to break up the periods of inactivity and reduce stress. For example: Build a stretching routine at your desk. Take a lunch time walk. Arrange a walking meeting or plan an active commute.
Regular physical activity is associated with higher levels of wellbeing, and lower rates of depression and anxiety (Biddle & Ekkekakis, 2005, Callaghan, 2004).
Looking ahead to the 2025 workplace
In 2025 we will be living and working longer. As a result, it’s more important than ever to invest in our long-term health. A great way to do this is to prioritize workplace wellbeing.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and takeaway some ideas of how you can invest in your happiness and health as a result.
Visit the AXA health gateway for more information regarding health and wellbeing.
Amy Creedon is Physiologist, Health Services, at AXA PPP Healthcare
Biddle, S. J., & Ekkekakis, P. (2005). Physically active lifestyles and wellbeing. The science of wellbeing, 140, 168.
Callaghan, P. (2004). Exercise: A neglected intervention in mental health care? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, H, 476-483.
Diener, E., & Chan, M.Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: subjective wellbeing contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing.
Fowler, J.H., & Christakis N.A. (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal.
Guzman-Castillo, M., Ahmadi-Abhari, S., Bandosz, P., Capewell, S., Steptoe, A., Singh-Manoux, A., … & O’Flaherty, M. (2017). Forecasted trends in disability and life expectancy in England and Wales up to 2025: a modelling study. The Lancet Public Health, 2(7), e307-e313.
Japan with Sue Perkins, Episode 2, 2019, BBC official website, visited 1 November 2019
Simington, M.O. (2017). The way you make me feel. Health & Wellness. Phi Kappa Phi Journal.