Supporting Employees Who Are Facing Retirement | EAPA-SA

Retirement is something that every employee needs to think about – it signifies a very abrupt change to one’s lifestyle. Some people cannot wait to retire; it is a goal they have planned for and have anticipated for many years. But this is not true for everyone. For many mature workers, their job provides much needed income and makes up an important part of their identity. The transition to retirement can certainly be a challenging time of life and this can cause employees to put off thinking about it, fail to plan or even try to avoid it altogether.

“Retirement is something that every employee needs to think about…”

Deciding when to retire may be one of the most important decisions an individual makes during their lifetime. Although the decision to retire occurs later in life, it can significantly affect an individual’s wellbeing for many years beforehand.

In this article, we examine what employers can do to support their workers who are facing retirement in the near future. Some key strategies include:

  • Fostering an ageing-friendly work environment as a part of an organisation’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices. 
  • Offering wide-ranging financial and health & wellness benefits that can enhance and protect employees’ long-term financial security while they are still working, such as group life cover and disability insurance, employee assistance programmes (EAPs), health & wellness programmes and financial literacy programmes.
  • Creating a retirement planning educational programme. HR can develop a practical workshop series to demonstrate to employees how to plan out their future, paying special consideration to finances, budgeting, maintaining social interaction and how they will manage all the free time they will have once they leave the company. 
  • Helping older employees phase into retirement, where older workers can gradually move toward retirement by allowing them to transition from full-time to part-time employment. 
  • Offering a bridge job to key employees. Finding talented, experienced workers to replace retiring Baby Boomers will become increasingly more difficult to accomplish in a highly competitive labour market. Developing bridge jobs where the soon-to-retire employees remain at work on a part-time basis may allow the company may ease the quest for talent that is often not available by allowing knowledgeable employees to mentor younger employees. 
  • Coaching the employee’s manager. Managers of retiring employees need know-how on how to support a team member soon to leave the team. Formal coaching should provide strategies on keeping the employee engaged until their last day. The manager should encourage the employee to complete as many key projects as possible and accept the responsibility to not let themselves become “retired on the job”.
  • Helping your mature workers create a legacy in your organisation by taking advantage of them mentoring younger workers. As many Baby Boomers retire, their depth of experience and insight departs with them. Document their knowledge by creating training manuals or by adding pages to the organisation’s intranet so that younger employees can learn from this knowledge going forward.
  • Asking soon-to-retire employees to train a new worker. Having a two to three-week training period will help the new employee get up to speed and be more productive, more quickly. As long as the departing employee does not overwhelm or impart negative thinking to the new employee.
  • Educating your older employees about retirement income strategies for to them preserve their savings to last a lifetime – along with strategies that allow for unforeseen medical or family issues.

Helping employees face the emotional aspect of retiring

While future retirees may be excited about life without work, contemplating retirement can give rise to negative emotions. For example, potential retirees may fear that they will be bored after they retire and that they will miss the mental stimulation of working, or that they will slowly become less engaged in society. This can trigger anxiety and depression. Here are three ways to help employees face the emotion aspects of retirement:

“While future retirees may be excited about life without work, contemplating retirement can give rise to negative emotions.”

1. Help your soon-to-retire employees to build resilience 

Help your employees to build resilience. The more resilient they are, the better they will be able to cope with challenges such as retirement. Human beings can improve the qualities of resiliency at any age to help them keep a healthy perspective. 

2. Teach them that retiring from work does not have to be all-or-nothing

  • Finding possible part-time work after retirement is a good way to make retirement more of a gradual transition. Along with providing purpose, part-time employment can also supplement a retiree’s income without having to endure the demands of full-time work.
  • Volunteering their time and effort to a good cause can add meaning and a sense of accomplishment to a retiree’s life and benefit the community. Volunteering can help expand a social network, boost self-worth, and improve physical health. It can also be a great opportunity to pass on some of the skills learned during a person’s professional life. 

“It is important for retirees to understand that depression is not an inevitable part of getting older.”

3. Teach them self-care to manage stress, anxiety, and depression

It is important for retirees to understand that depression is not an inevitable part of getting older. It can happen to anyone, at any age. While life’s transitions can trigger depression, there are many steps one can actively take to feel happy and hopeful in retirement. 

  • Regularly practicing a relaxation technique such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, or tai chi can help ease anxiety and stress and help to lower blood pressure.
  • Taking regular physical exercise is a very effective way to boost one’s mood, relieve stress, and promote feeling relaxed and positive as one gets older. No matter a retirees’ age or limitation in mobility, there are still ways to reap the benefits of regular exercise.
  • Practicing gratitude every day may sound simplistic when one is in the middle of a major life change, but consciously noting the things one is grateful for is a quick and easy way to improve your mood and outlook. 
  • Spending time in nature can relieve stress and deepen one’s sense of well-being. Encourage your retirees to try hiking, fishing, camping, or walking in a park, along a beach, or through woods.
  • Breaking the worry habit can calm an anxious mind. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that one can learn how to break. By challenging anxious thoughts and learning to accept uncertainty in life one can look at life in a more balanced way.