The result of measures and strategies to highlight in the organisational work, to make improvements for a sustainable extended working life for all ages, are presented under the following themes: Measures for the work environments health effects; Measures for personal financial security; Measures for relation, social support and inclusion; Measures for execution of work tasks.
3.1. Measures for the Work Environments Health Effects
3.1.1. Measures to Consider the Effect of Biological Ageing Related to Employees’ Health and Risk Assessments in the Systematic Work Environment Management
The interviewees representing the various occupations participating in this study stated that the areas of importance in terms of decreasing the possibility of an extended working life were physical and mental health problems. The interviewees were of the opinion that a high level of physical and mental demands for many years in a problematic work environment often led to physical health problems, especially in the last year of employment. One participant from HR stated: “I think that you can perceive a big difference after the age of 60. You lose very much then. Mostly physically. That you cannot be bothered, you are tired. It is hard to work in health care”. A trade union representative from the construction industry described the health problems associated with increasing age: “There are many employees who can take two painkillers, both at lunch and breakfast. However, most people go into the bathroom and take them, since most people do not want to show it. I dare not even speculate how large the use of painkillers is. It can range from 50% to 10%. If I must be honest it is very extensive”. Many interviewees stated the importance of an action plan for organisational measures to examine work environmental risks, take actions and follow up on the measures and actions. A manager stated: “We need to work with accident prevention all the time, such as to always wear protective goggles, gloves and the like. Such things have of course been an improvement to minor accidents today. But then the second thing, the long process where you work every day in a physically demanding occupation and eventually you will become physically worn out in old age. We have not really come up with how to solve this”. However, there are actually systems on how to continuously manage these work environmental problems in the day-to-day work. One manager stated: “If it makes a real impact to work with systematic work environment management then it is possible that more people can continue to work until an older age, I’d say”. Interviewees stated that it is important to systematically work towards making the physical and mental work environments healthier and more sustainable for employees of all ages.
3.1.2. An Organisational Culture That Promotes the Use of Ergonomic Aids
Many of the senior employees in physically demanding work environments described it as problematic to keep working due to the physical work environment. The organisational culture regarding the use of ergonomically correct positions, aids and equipment should be encouraged with the aim of improving physical work health. One manager stated: “Younger ones just go for it. They hear well, see well and feel good. But when they are around 60 they have tinnitus for not using hearing protections when they were younger. Back pain all the time because when you were 25 you could lift 60 kg, no problem. The back creaked a bit, but it went well. Then it is too late”. One trade union worker said: “We have this macho culture: Just go for it!! I have been using the machine every day, year in and year out for ten years and it went well. I cannot feel my arms today, but it does not matter, just go for it. Then the younger guys think: If the senior employees work like that, I should not be weaker. Then they learn the wrong way and the problem continues”. A manager in health care stated that it was obvious that the use of ergonomic aids can protect and enable the patients, but sometimes the employees were not diligent about protecting themselves and would take their own safety and health for granted. Another manager stated: “It is important to inform more regularly about accessibility and protection equipment. That it is included as a requirement. We often focus on the patient, when the patient needs an aid we help them so that they understand how to use it. But it is also about our own working environment and health”. The interviewees stated that it was important to instil a positive attitude to provide a good and safe work environment in the entire organisation. Furthermore, it is not only the managers, HR personnel and trade union representatives who need to be aware of this, the employees must also be educated and take responsibility regarding their own safety so as to enjoy a good work environment.
3.1.3. Rotation, Variation and Change of Duties to Reduce Physical and Mental Demands
Rotation between different work tasks was stated by the interviewees as a measure to reduce health problems from demanding work tasks and situations at work. One senior employee said: “I am in favour of rotation between different tasks, and I talk from my own experience. You lay slabs and lift the stone, every day. You might lift 7–8 tons a day with your body. It takes a devilish toll on the body, this monotony. Instead, it is better to rotate a little and switch tasks within the work team. It’s about planning, to ensure that the conditions to be able to rotate exist”. One manager said: “You need to modify the task. When you come up to 60 years, you can’t roof a house, you can’t make roof trusses. Then there are other tasks. One must plan and structure the workplace. Can we put him in charge of small tasks, or shall we let him handle the logistics?” To rotate could on the other hand increase fear, insecurity and the experience of more stress, if the senior employee was not used to rotate work tasks but only worked with the same tasks and in the same place. One manager described: “When I started to work here I introduced the need to rotate on all workstations. Then there were older employees who had difficulty opening the computer at the new table, even though it was exactly the same kind of computer that also looked exactly the same. It was not possible to understand how to do it when they left the table where they had stood for 20 years. Some could not even enter their username. However, after a while it was no problem”. To rotate work tasks in the workplace was also described as both a barrier and a solution to reduce problems in the mental work environment. It could in some aspects be perceived as stressful to move from a familiar work spot and work tasks to an unknown area, but on the other hand it could be a solution and a possibility to reduce stress and increase the understanding of the total organisation and towards each others’ work tasks. A senior employee stated: “It would have been good to start from the beginning and to really get around. Many of the staff have to move. They have been in one place for 30–40 years. They do not know what it looks like at their neighbouring colleague basically. It is very good to walk around and see what others have it like to appreciate their own, and maybe come back again”. In other words, a regular rotation between different work tasks seems to be a good measure to promote a healthy and sustainable working life for all ages.
3.1.4. Communication, Information and Participation to Reduce Work Stress
The interviewees described a problematic work situation as when there was a great demand on them to execute their work tasks, even though there were a lot of factors they could not control in their work situation, affecting their ability to execute their work tasks. Additionally, there was organisational development underway that the employees did not understand or perceive as having any possible objective or benefits based on their own position within the organisation. A trade union representative said: “There are so many reorganisations and we face a lot of new systems. Our members become much stressed if they do not understand why there must be a change or because of the novelty of it. You become frightened and tired of all the new systems […] it could be new and changed monitoring systems, payroll systems, personnel systems, financial systems, planning systems. We need to receive information and be included in what and why these systems are needed. If they are needed”. The interviewees described that better sharing of information and worker participation in organisational development and changes in work tasks could increase their understanding of what was going on within the organisation. Therefore, they suggested more accurately targeted information about, and participation in, organisational development and work task changes as important measures that could balance the sense of reward and decrease work stress. The senior employees also described how they as employees want to experience a sense of reward for the effort they put into their work tasks. The older employees described how work tasks would not bring fulfilment due to circumstances beyond the employees’ control, and that words and actions of appreciation from their managers and organisations could improve their situation, by helping them to better manage their experiences at work and reduce their stress levels.
3.1.5. Reduce Violence and Threats in the Work Situation and Brief Each Other in Support Groups
There are times in the work situation circumstances that can include threats and violence. A senior employee in a health care organisation described: “There are some patients who are confused and demented and who can become violent and fight. There are also patients with frontal lobe dementia who become completely personality-changed and pull staff down in bed and try to make sexual encounters. They can’t help it, but it is our work environment and it is stressful to face this every day and having to defend ourselves”. Undesirable situations that include violence and threats must be managed properly and reduced so that a higher number of employees of all ages can keep working. An important measure described by the informants was to hold briefing sessions regularly with each other to talk about possible, perceived and experienced situations and issues in the work situation including threats and violence. The possibility of talking about these situations in support groups and with supervisors was described as a much-needed measure to reduce stress and anxiety regarding new situations including threats and violence and on how to handle them.
3.1.6. Work Schedules
Measures regarding the working hours appeared to be important to make working life more sustainable for all ages. An HR practitioner said: “Many senior employees like to reduce the number of work hours, have shorter work shifts and more flexible working hours to cope and have time to recover”. Flexibility in the work schedule was stated as important for senior employees’ revitalisation and to be able to work until an older age. A manager defined it: “The possibility of having a little bit more flexible working hours is one of the most important factors for the possibility to keep working in an extended working life, as I perceive it”. However, many stated that flexibility in working hours was not feasible in many organisations since it would impact the production line. In contrast, others stated that this was not true, because it could be done with better planning and organisation of the work tasks. Another HR practitioner said: “Many senior people prefer to work fewer hours because they are unable to cope. I think younger people would rather work a very long shift and then have time off for two days in the middle of the week. When you are older, you have changed that view and gained the insight to work more often but shorter work shifts to cope. We especially saw this in the workplaces where there was an opportunity to influence working hours and schedule. There you could see that younger people worked much longer work shifts but more rarely. Older people worked more often, though had shorter work shifts, preferably five-hour work shifts”. A trade union worker in a construction enterprise stated that many senior employees no longer had the strength needed to work full time and said: “Those who have come up to 60 years and have physical problems could work part-time, and go down to, say, 75%. If the senior employee had reduced their working hours, by working fewer hours every day, for example from 09:00 to 14:00 (5-h work days), it would not affect the work team and production negatively at all […] In more project-oriented workplaces, for example, the staff could work for three months and then have time off for three months”. However, the trade union worker also mentioned that if senior employees decreased their working hours their pension could be negatively affected, and therefore many senior employees do not consider reduced working hours as a possible choice to have a more sustainable working life.
3.1.7. Work Pace
The senior employees were described to be just as exposed to the demanding mental work environmental problems as the younger ones, i.e., sometimes they experience an insufficient influence of their own decisions and control on their work situation, and some run the risk of being subjected to threats and violence. However, it seems to be especially stressful for the ageing employees with high expectations on their productivity from enterprise/organisation, managers and co-workers when they, due to their biological ageing and health problems, cannot be as productive as before, in some work tasks. A trade union worker described this: “There are difficulties in the work team when older employees are worn out and cannot perform as well as the other ones. Not to be performing fully anymore and risking dragging down the contracted work in the work team is stressful for the older employees”. The work pace was mentioned when it comes to improving measures for senior employees. One manager stated: “I feel that those who are 50, 55+, they cannot work at the same work pace of those who are 25–30 years old”. Additionally, many of the senior employees stated that they experienced that work was more stressful these days and that they could not work at such a stressful work pace. Instead, they wanted fewer work tasks; to have the possibility of focusing on fewer tasks, but performing better. Another important measure described by some interviewees was to adapt the work content to the scope of working hours, so that those who work part-time were not expected to perform full-time work in fewer hours. Too many work tasks increase the work pace because it also takes time to switch between different work tasks. A senior employee in elderly care said: “There are so many work tasks around that have nothing to do with care work at all, and that is stressful. We must document a lot, write a lot and keep contact with relatives. They pull at you from all directions. We must bake, we must get food ready, we must organise activities to the accommodation, and we must pack up diapers. We have to do so many different things, the patients have to wait. The patients complain about that, and then you get yelled at by the manager for not having time to do the care work”. The interviewees stated the importance of good quality in the execution of work tasks, and not to focus as much on quantity. The interviewees described that a measure to achieve this was to have fewer tasks and work at a more comfortable work pace where they could be more considerate and creative in executing their work.
3.1.8. Importance of Self-Care for a Sound (Occupational) Health
The interviewees stated that healthy ageing is about taking care of themselves and their own health. However, it was stated that this was easier with support from the work situation and the organisation. Some interviewees talked about the fact that individual employees have a responsibility of taking care of and managing their own health, but that the prevailing attitude, for example in the workplace, contributed to whether they could and whether they took this responsibility. A manager said: “There must be a genuine interest in taking care of oneself, because it is not just about exercising, it is also about eating right and sleeping properly and all those other things that affect how we feel in everyday life”. A senior employee said: “To get exercise, eat, sleep, and all that influences how we feel in our daily lives is also a part of the working environment”. Some interviewees spoke of the significance of physical exercise, but also the importance of a healthy diet. The interviewees also stated that people had better eating habits before, when it was possible to get coupons from the enterprise or organisation to exchange for lunch. These days this counts as an income benefit in Sweden and results in increased taxes for the employees, therefore no enterprise or organisation has this system anymore. However, there was a greater concern about the younger generations’ possibility of having a sound health. The managers and senior employees pointed out that the younger employees preferred eating fast food instead of maintaining a healthy diet. A manager said: “We have many people who have a Coca Cola and a chocolate bun for breakfast. I think it would be a good measure to treat the staff to a good breakfast when they come here, so they have the energy to work”. The manager stated that the young employees of today will be elderly employees one day, and that if they do not change their diet, they will have serious health problems when they get older. The interviewees discussed that physical activity was very important to keep mentally and physically healthy. An occupational health care professional said: “Fitness in some way is essential for everyone to maintain a sound physical and mental health regardless of desk work or physically demanding work. Exercise either at work or sponsored by work. Exercise at work could be mandatory, not only for police officers and firefighters as it contributes to higher productivity and less sick absence among employees”. A manager said: “I don’t think there’s a chance that you will be able to work until an older age unless you take care of yourself and your body. It can well be stated that a lot of our employees have physically demanding jobs in health care, but who also miscalculate their body if you look at how they maintain their physical exercise and their diet. It’s not good. We do what we can there. We provide information, offer lunch and occupational health care and tell about the importance of physical exercise, mental recuperation and a well-balanced diet. That you should exercise even if you have a physically demanding occupation”. Some interviewees discussed whether measures to develop an organisational culture that promotes self-care and a healthy lifestyle could be a step on the way to a more healthy and sustainable working life, or if it was to violate employee integrity and risk of shaming people.
3.1.9. Physical Activity, ‘Maintenance of Functions’, to Sustain and Improve Mental and Physical Good Health
Physical activity was stated as an important measure to sustain and improve sound health, both mentally and physically. Organisational support for making it possible and, in addition, compulsory, to exercise at work and as a part of the work schedule, was a measure supposed to support a more sustainable working life until an older age. An HR practitioner stated: “I come from the police department and also work quite a lot with firefighters. In those occupations physical exercise and maintenance of their body during working hours is mandatory, to score their tests and keep up good physical form in order to do a good job. But it’s almost more tiring and demanding to work in health care. Health care professionals need to exercise as much as employees in the police department or fire brigade. It should be equivalent when you save people’s lives. I think that all physically demanding service occupations need to get exercise at work, as part of the working hours. It should be a requirement, because it’s a safety and work environment issue”. A senior employee said: “I think it would be good if they would put fitness exercise in the work schedule. I think many do not want to go away when they get home. They live far from the city where they work. But if they had one hour a week in their working hours I think, if you put it in, many would feel a lot better because of it, it is actually perceivable. We see it in our elderly patients’ exercise and raising of their arms every now and then. Just doing that a couple of times a week makes them feel better. Why can’t the staff do that, without having to do it in their own leisure time? We get older, as do our shoulders and arms, our bodies shrink, it’s really important to exercise. I think most would agree if it was in the working schedule. Don’t you too? Now that us co-workers exercise for a few hours, and gently move our arms and shoulders, nothing unusual really, so many have felt good because of it”.
Another senior employee described that physical activity was not only important for the body but also for the mind. She said: “You become more alert if you exercise at all, because I know some girls who have started and never done any before, and they say that they are very energetic: I can do more than I did before! And I actually think that you do”. Physical activity and exercise were highlighted by the interviewees as an important measure to promote a healthy and sustainable working life for all ages.
3.1.10. Occupational Health Services Support to Prevent Work Environment Problems and Increase Good Occupational Health
The interviewees stated the need for measures to make working life healthier for all ages and to make working life more sustainable. Some managers and HR practitioners emphasised the need to place the employees’ wellbeing in their systematic work environmental management to handle an extended working life. Someone said: “When we do our safety rounds and look over tools, activities, etc. we can also look over the employees’ physical and mental capacity to work”. However, the HR practitioners and managers further stated the need for professional help to decide on and implement the measures. An HR practitioner said: “I think we need to take more action when I see the injuries that employees have today. This will be intensified if we do not begin to take measures in the working environment and work situation now. Measures must be reasonable in some way, if we expect that elderly employees will perform and deliver until an older age in the same way. Perhaps measures for physiotherapeutic rehabilitation. It is not only the somatic part. It is so easy to decide on and take physical action. But it can also be mental. It should not be forgotten. This second part is more difficult to work with. We have occupational health services that we can turn to for help with it, but maybe we also should have something in the administration that we can turn to”. As the HR practitioner described, the managers have many tasks and responsibilities and they cannot be experts in every field. Therefore, they need to include other professionals and experts to take care of some of the measures in order to make the work situation healthy and sustainable for employees belonging to different age groups.
3.1.11. Summary about Work Environments Health Effects
The participating interviewees stated that an awareness of employees’ ageing in their systematic work environment control management and strategy in the daily work at the organisation or enterprise was an important strategy for sustainable working to an older age, i.e., an awareness of ageing in the investigation of working conditions; in the assessing of risks; in the development of an action plan, and when to take action; as well as an awareness of ageing in the follow up of the results. Other measures to promote a good and healthy work environment that supports health and wellbeing, and are of importance for a sustainable working life until an older age, were: an organisational culture that promotes the use of ergonomic aids and tools; rotation and change of work tasks to reduce physical wear; physical activity to maintain bodily functions and keep mentally and physically fit; the importance of a healthy diet for sound (occupational) health; and occupational health care support to promote health and prevent physical and mental injury, illness and stress.
3.2. Measures for Personal Financial Security
3.2.1. Salary and Financial Benefits
One reason to work is to receive salary to finance one´s life. When we asked the senior employees about their reasons to keep working in an extended working life some stated: “For me it’s a financial issue. I am not hypocritical about that”. A trade union representative said: “When you work you have reasonably good finances. But, on the other hand, you have less leisure time to do activities than someone in retirement. As a pensioner you will have to live with less money, but much more time to do what you want. It’s a balance. When can I leave (for retirement)?” The changes in salary and financial benefits are measures that can work both as a carrot and stick for a longer working life.
3.2.2. Measures in the Organisations and Enterprises Work Environment to Promote Continuous Employability
Some interviewees distinguish the need for measures to promote continuous employability, so that senior employees can provide for themselves through continuing to work until an older age. A necessity is that the employee’s health is sufficient to work, to be able to participate in working life and to receive a salary. A manager stated: “Elderly people who are worn out and have a sore neck and shoulders, they get a medical certificate that they cannot lift more than 10 kg. But then we say to that person that we do not have any tasks for them. Because we have not any work tasks where you do not have to lift at least 10 kg. So then there is no possibility of re-employment after their injury and sick absence”. The interviewees stated that work environment security to reduce risks of occupational diseases, injury, sick absence and disability pension were important for the individual employee’s employability and personal finances. A manager said: “20 years ago, people were unable to work until retirement age in this profession. Because back then you did not have the tools and you did not have the working environment of today. But even today, some are worn out but have to suck it up and work because they have no choice. Otherwise they will have too low pensions and have financial problems”. Some interviewees stated that the organisations and enterprises were responsible for the working environment, that when the organisation or enterprise chooses not to provide safety aids or tools or does not provide enough people for an activity, they should consider the long-term cost of this since it can cause sickness absence and disability benefits in the long run. A trade union representative said: “In large workplaces, it is easier to provide more people and protection equipment than in a place where we are two employees, because the price is so bad, we have not considered the cost of that. So, in those workplaces you have to work harder than one would have thought. We also have some smaller workplaces in facility work where we do not have access to the work protection equipment one would need at all times. It is often like that. What to say of the rules of preparation, it is usually included in larger projects, you need this and that, and then it is part of the offer and price, etc. That is where the safety representative should object”. The interviewees regarded work environment safety representatives at the workplaces and their mandate to stop work if there are any health risks present as an important measure to reduce risks in the workplace that could affect the employees’ health, continuous employability and by extension, employee salary and personal finances. Some interviewees, mostly managers, highlighted the importance of safety protection, and how injury and sick absence can cause economic stress for the organisation or enterprise.
3.2.3. Measures to Change the Organisational Culture, to Promote and Increase Responsibility and Employees’ Use of Safety Equipment and Assistive Technology in the Workplace
The organisational culture influences how one perceives one’s work, tasks, as well as the use of aids, tools etc. Therefore, the organisational culture should promote a responsible and sustainable working life, to prevent employees being worn out physically or mentally. It is also important for the staff that the management shows appreciation for their efforts. A trade union representative stated the importance of taking measures to change the organisational culture: “We have this macho culture; just go for it! I have used that machine every day for years and years, ten years and it went well. However, I have numbness in my arms today, though that does not matter, just go for it! Now I generalise a little. When the young guys learn, the frail Bengtsson can do it, he is able to, and so am I! Then, for example, we have a young guy today, he is not yet 30 years of age, who must have cortisone pumped into his arms. Not yet 30 years old! It is too weird that it should be like that […] they are 30–35 years old and are starting to have physical problems with knees, back and legs already, and they may not have worked for more than 15 years. After all, it’s scary that many of the younger ones can’t handle it”. Many interviewees working in physically demanding workplaces expressed the need to change the organisational culture, to use the aids and tools that were available to avoid being exhausted and unable to work, and subsequently risk financial consequences due to lack of employability. A senior employee who expressed concerns about the organisational culture said: “Younger people go on just like anyone else. You hear well, look good and feel good. But around 60 you get tinnitus for not using hearing protection, so it is, sore back because when you were 25 you lifted 60 kilos no problem, it creaked a little, but it went well. That’s what it is like. Then it’s too late”. Opportunities to maintain employability until an older age and to counteract “macho attitudes” were described as conscious efforts aimed at creating a more favourable organisational culture. The role of the organisational culture in employability at an older age was expressed, above all, by managers in the heavy construction industry. A manager stated: “There’s a huge focus on working environment, actually. […] It was stated by the executive group management that it is not about money, it is about wellbeing at the employees construction site”. A manager stated that acute injuries were reduced with protection equipment, but that becoming physically worn out seems more difficult to combat using physical means: “Now we have introduced to always use protection goggles, gloves and the like. Such things have been an improvement to minor accidents today of course. But then in the long run, when you work in a physically demanding profession, you will get worn out eventually”. Rotation between different work tasks was one measure stated by the informants to reduce health problems in a working environment with heavy physical demands.
3.2.4. Measures to Promote and Increase Employability through Continuous Competence Development
To execute work tasks and activities the employees need appropriate knowledge and competence. Many of the interviewees stated the need for continuous knowledge and competence development for the employees to stay employable. However, some managers, and some senior employees, stated that some of the senior employees do not want to continue developing their knowledge and learn new things. Most organisations and enterprises must undergo continuous development due to the ongoing change in the world and societal circumstances. If an employee does not have the right competence and know-how required for their work tasks, they are not employable. A manager stated: “When there is change in the organisation, which of course it happens for a bit every now and then, if the employee’s competence does not fit the new tasks, they should be placed somewhere else. Then we try to get these employees other tasks and locations. We also need to look at what they bring in competence. Sometimes a senior employee no longer has the right skills and training. They are not as employable anymore”. Other interviewees stated that with a broad competence and/or special competence it was easier for the employee to change work tasks, workplace or occupation if health issues forced them to do so. The participating interviewees stated that it was of great importance to take measures to promote a continuous improvement of competence, personal development and learning of new skills in order to maintain employees’ continuous employability, and in the long term, personal financial security though the possibility to obtain salary from work.
3.2.5. Summary about Personal Financial Security
The interviewees stated that measures to promote personal financial security for senior employees were important to secure their continuous employability. Therefore, measures to ensure work environment security, risk assessment and reduction of work injuries are needed to reduce the risks of health impacts, so that employees can manage an entire working life and not be worn out prematurely and subsequently forced out of working life with less financial benefits through long-term sick leave, disability pension, unemployment or premature retirement. Furthermore, continuous competence development is key, so that senior employees do not risk being laid off due to lack of fitting tasks to workers because their competence is obsolete, or they lack the skills needed and therefore cannot be relocated with continued employability and provide for themselves by participating in working life. Some interviewees also stated the need for a reasonable and sufficient salary regardless of age.
3.3. Measures to Promote Relations, Social Support and Inclusion
3.3.1. Measures to Promote Work–Life Participation by Balancing Working Life and Leisure Time
Employees have a personal life outside their work. The interviewees describe a need for measures in the work situation that utilise individual needs, participation and activities with family, leisure time and hobbies. Many of the senior employees stated that they were much more tired these days. This fatigue affected their leisure time, because they had to prioritise rest and recuperation when they did not work. A senior employee said: “In the evening when I came home, I did not have the energy to start doing fun things […] I have way too little recuperation. I got a telling-off from my brother last summer; he said that I never call and never come to visit. I replied that I do not have the energy. After work I go home, cook, eat, sit on the couch and then I go to bed. /… / Over the years, I feel that the balance has got worse and worse […] We have a little cabin in Falkenberg where we would like to spend some time… But we can’t, because I don’t have time… I don’t have time to do anything at home”. Being too exhausted to take part in leisure activities and exercise could cause feelings of embarrassment. A senior employee said: “It is like you said previously, I am so tired. I am almost ashamed sometimes that I don’t have the energy to do anything, anything, other than work and sit in front of the TV. It is like that unless I am off for the whole weekend or something. I don’t really do anything during the weeks other than work. It almost feels a little bit embarrassing”. Many of the interviewed senior employees stated the need for measures to promote senior employees’ work schedules and working hours that, other than work, address the need for the individual’s participation in a personal social environment, leisure activities, family, hobbies and relaxation. Many state that they would prefer to leave working life due to the lack of content in life besides work, and to have a better possibility of living a full life.
3.3.2. Measures to Promote Social Inclusion in a Team to Increase Participation and Community
The sense of community in the workplace was described as important to create a sustainable extended working life. Difficulties arose if the senior employees sensed feeling like outsiders in their former work team, in which case they would not want to extend their working lives. A trade union worker said: “There are no guidelines in the enterprise generally saying that when a skilled employee, coming up to 63, 64 years of age, then it should be done like this. They leave it to the team to redistribute responsibilities. There will be an outcry: we should not have him in our work team, because he is worn out! He cannot perform piece work! Actually, piece work is an issue for senior employees”. All the interviewees stated the importance of the work social environment and measures to promote inclusion of every individual in a reliable team. To be a part of a social group was stated as important to increase the willingness to keep working in an extended working life. An HR practitioner stated: “Those who appreciate the social life in their work situation and who have a large social network at work tend to work for quite some time”. A senior employee said: “I get on well at this job and it feels good. I meet many nice colleagues and managers who appreciate the effort, so there is no hard consideration to keep working”.
Another senior employee said: “One thing that makes you want to come here and work is that you have a lot of friends and acquaintances. People you meet every day, talk and hang out with”. An organisational culture with sustainable values allows customisation of the work situation. The sense of participating in something larger than oneself and working with colleagues were stated as important factors to keep working in an extended working life.
3.3.3. Measures to Increase the Senior Employees’ Status in an Occupation and a Work Team
The interviewees describe that it is key to feel that work tasks and activities are perceived as important and needed for the productivity and the organisation. Having appropriate resources and equipment to execute the work tasks was seen as important in order to experience appreciation from the organisation and the manager. Some production and professional groups included in the study had received new work uniforms and were offered training days, which assisted in raising the status and value of the employees to the organisation. A senior employee describes: “It was Anna (a manager) who introduced it. She cared a lot about raising the status of their careers. So they got uniforms that say ‘Cleaning Department’ on them, and they all got training. A whole week of training. It cost a lot of money, but I think it made them feel more appreciated”. However, the participants described that male-dominated occupations and work tasks have a higher status within the organisation and are more appreciated than female dominated occupations. A participant stated: “Men have higher status in organisations. All who needed got work uniforms that were paid for by the organisation, and they do not have to take them home to wash themselves. They have full time work, and also have a higher salary for the same work tasks”. Some participants implied that this difference in status was part of the fact that more women left working life earlier than men. They stated it as an important measure to promote and increase the status of female-dominated occupations and work tasks to increase their willingness to remain in an extended working life.
3.3.4. Social Support to Promote and Increase the Senior Employees’ Self-Esteem in the Organisation
Social support was described as a measure to increase the older employees’ willingness to stay in working life for longer. One manager stated that many senior employees had to change their own self-image by themselves too, and said: “It is often the general idea in society that individuals are not interested in the labour market when they are over 55. This is in many people’s heads. If you do not believe in yourself then it will be tough”. Another manager said: “I have employees who basically have the same chronological age, but where one has decided to work until 67 and the other to work until 65. I think many start to dip down when they begin to see the end of working life in any way. Then, it is a lot about motivation, and I discovered that it determines quite a lot and that’s pretty much about it. Attitude and motivation affect a lot”. Some interviewees stated that because of old age, health problems or personality, some employees do not want to be in the front line. They want to take it easy, have enough time to recover and do a good job at their own pace. Therefore, a means to keep a larger number of senior employees within the organisation until an older age was to make it possible to have different positions based on the senior employees’ own needs. However, they need to have the ability to know that they are good enough and to feel included in the social participation despite not being able to keep up with a fast work pace. A manager said that they have made agreements within the work team to make it possible for everyone to get best, or at least good enough, fitted tasks: “There was an agreement and this elderly nurse has since then expressed that she feels very calmed by it. She does a satisfactory job, but she does not need to do this to be in the front line. […] She avoided the stress, she has expressed that; now I know what I should do, I will do what I must. For it is not fair that one should leave a long working life with a sense of failure; I’m not good enough. Then it is better to have taken that into consideration”. Measures to promote and increase an employee’s self-esteem in the organisation, irrespective of the employee being the most productive worker or not, were said to be important in remaining in an extended working life.
3.3.5. Measures to Promote and Increase the Attitude of Employees as a Productivity Investment
The interviewees stated that it was an important measure to feel included in a social group and to be seen as a unique individual to make work–life more sustainable until an older age.
All the respondents stated the importance of different age groups at the workplace because it takes time to build experience from life. One of the trade union workers said: “It takes such a long time to build up experience that some older key people are worth gold to the organisation”. Senior employees were described as a resource offering valuable assets for organisations and companies. Measures to take care of and promote the senior employees’ experience-based knowledge were needed both for the acknowledgement of the senior employees and for the prosperity of the organisation. Some managers described that they included senior employees in development meetings for the business and new projects even though the employees were older and did not have much time left before retirement. A manager stated: “It is very valuable to have a senior employee in the production and in the work team, they know what to do and have been through most problems so they keep calm in the most difficult and problematic situations”. Having mixed age groups strengthens creativity, growth and flourishing because experience and knowledge meet and can be exchanged. To highlight and promote the senior employees’ value to the work team and the production was described as an important measure in the quest for creating a healthy and sustainable extended working life. Some of the respondents also described how customers and patients who themselves were elderly preferred to turn to senior employees with their requests. This is probably because they perceived it to be easier to meet in a common reference framework and historic familiarity with someone in the same age group that facilitates the communication.
3.3.6. Measures and Actions to Decrease Negative Attitudes and (Age) Discrimination
Managers, HR practitioners, trade union representatives and senior employees stated that it was important not to generalise, not to hold stereotypes that all senior employees are the same and take actions and measures to eliminate negative attitudes toward ageing, victimisation and age discrimination because of effects on work ability related to biological and cognitive ageing. The attitude towards senior employees held by managers, co-workers and organisations influences the senior employees’ experience of motivation to work. However, in the analysis it was possible to determine some negative attitudes towards senior employees in the work organisation. A manager stated: “To put it bluntly: it is a fact that you want to invest in the younger employees, they’ve got many years left. Now we have laws and regulations that govern us and control us to not make any difference because of age”. Another manager described how older employees’ productivity was not as high as the younger employees’: “I may, as supervisor, not expect the same productivity of a 65-year-old employee that I can of a 30-year-old. But is it okay that older employees are not as effective? Is it okay if they cannot do the same things? That they cannot produce at the same level? Can we justify that we expect different things at different ages from our employees? For it is like that in reality”. Some senior employees indicated that they felt discriminated against because of their age, and that it was important to change this perception. One senior employee said: “I heard at some point that when you as an older employee continue and work for longer, you do not make place for younger generations. I do not know how to understand this because it is not really true. It is not a matter of a generational switch. It is about competence. You should see us more as individual employees with different competences, instead of a certain age”. The participants stated that it was important to eliminate negative age-related attitudes and to acknowledge individuals instead of generalising about individual employees based on their chronological age and on stereotypically negative attributed characteristics of the social age group elderly employee, i.e., to age discriminate.
3.3.7. Summary about Relations, Social Support and Inclusion
The interviewees stated that measures to promote social inclusion, participation, coherence and social support in the work situation by considering whether all employees were included in the work social environment and in the work team are of great importance. They also stated the importance of measures to decrease negative attitudes and (age) discrimination, and to increase social support and the senior employees’ self-esteem in the organisation. As well as to appreciate the senior employees’ mentoring, (working) life experience and calming effect on the work team as an important productivity investment. Additionally, employees have a personal life outside work and senior employees, due to their biological ageing, need more time for recuperation, the work schedules need to pay attention to individual needs for social participation outside work and activities with family, leisure time and hobbies.
3.4. Measures for Execution of Work Tasks
3.4.1. Measures to Increase Motivation and Work Satisfaction
At work people must perform work tasks and activities to receive their salaries. Many interviewees describe that their work tasks and the content of their work activities were very important to them. This was especially the case with older employees with work tasks and activities involving problem-solving, where they could utilise their abilities and skills in a way that they could not do outside of work, who stated that they did not want to retire from working and that it was of great importance for them to stay in working life. However, other older employees stated that their work tasks and activities lacked meaning and were a reason for them to leave working life. One senior employee stated the need for measures in working life to make the work interesting, motivating, meaningful and stimulating, the employee put it like this: “If you go to the same place and do the same thing for 40 years, then it is not as much fun. We receive new challenges when we get into new projects, with new people, and in making sure that it works”. To sometimes declare and highlight the employees’ work roles, tasks and activities in the bigger picture of the workplace, to the production and in society, was described as a measure that would increase the experience of the tasks and work activities as motivating, meaningful and appreciated within the organisation, enterprise and society. Measures to promote the experience of work tasks as interesting, meaningful and stimulating, or the experience of activities together with co-workers as stimulating and meaningful, were described as important in order to keep working until an older age. The feeling of importance when performing work tasks was described as meaningful and stimulating by one senior employee older than 65 years, who stated: “I still feel curious, I am not fed up by what I am doing at work, but find stimulation in it all the time”. Another senior employee said: “I would not have kept working if I had not been stimulated. It applies to conditions and everything”. Many participants stated that the experience of importance in work tasks constituted a preference to remain in an extended working life.
3.4.2. The Rotation and Change of Work Tasks in Order to Increase Motivation and Work Satisfaction
Some interviewees described the rotation between different work tasks to be a measure that motivates and stimulates employees to remain in an extended working life. One manager stated: “I think we need to have rotation. It should be mandatory to work in different places and to move around at work. Between different tasks, within their own workplace or in another department. Because I have seen when we have forced people to move around, at first it is only disastrous for this person. They believe that working life is over. Six months later, when you ask them, they say it’s quite amazing, really good: "I have had to learn again, I have seen new things and met new people" they say. I have never heard anyone say that it was a disaster when it’s been a while. In the beginning of the change many are paralysed by fear, but then after a while it is only positive”. One senior employee described how she got a new job after a reorganisation, including rotation between work tasks within the work team, she stated: “I love the contacts, the meetings you have with new people, it doesn’t matter if they are older or younger. There are always new meetings, new challenges; how do I solve this? And then the wellbeing of the team. A bunch that always stand up for each other, you have problems and crises within the team that you always have, so you can sit down, nurses and manager and everything, so it is a great concept and great manager, it helps a lot. The manager, she trusts the work team. It is a security for us”. However, some of the interviewees stated that to make rotation possible the employees had to have the skills needed for various work tasks. One manager said: “Rotation is important. But the skills issue is very important at that. It’s about people who think that it might be good to go on and widen their views and their areas of expertise, otherwise it will not work. To participate in knowledge development, or to read up on their skills by themselves”. This manager also described how it was his issue to motivate the employees to develop. Individual development and broader know-how from the rotation of work tasks was also described as an important measure for the employees’ employability and possibility to keep working in a changing work organisation and working life. However, the interviewees also stated that not all employees could rotate and do every work task in the workplace due to functional variation in physical or mental capabilities.
3.4.3. Measures to Highlight the Employees’ Abilities
Some of the participants stated that in work and at the workplace, the individual employee sometimes becomes anonymous and assumes the role of an employee to perform the assigned tasks and activities at work. The individual’s unique abilities run the risk of becoming invisible and of not coming to fruition. To experience oneself as a replaceable cog in the organisation’s machinery was described as having a draining effect on the motivation. The meaning of their own individual efforts was experienced as non-existent by employees. Some of the senior interviewees who had left working life at an early age, i.e., before 64 years of age, stated that they had experienced work as a barrier to do more meaningful and satisfying things with their life and that they would have gladly stopped working even earlier if their personal finances had allowed it. One interviewee who felt that he did not receive any appreciation at work stated: “I was quite skilled at finding problems in the energy system and solving these problems so that the organisation could save a lot of money. But, they never thanked me for that. I sold myself cheap at that job and never got any credit for my commitment”. Another senior interviewee said: “New managers, who were economists and did not know anything about the work tasks and how to do things, changed the organisation. You and your work team couldn’t decide on how to execute the work tasks anymore and there was much more stress”. One interviewee made this statement: “I put so much into that work but nobody cared and no-one appreciated me anymore. My manager frankly did not give a damn. It was no fun anymore […] if someone cares and appreciates what you do, you want to do it even better, but if no-one cares you stop caring too”. This type of experience caused frustration and made work feel dull and uninteresting. Therefore, many of the participants stated the importance of paying attention to the employees’ individual skills and specialities and to highlight them as unique individuals, important to the functionality and productivity of the organisation or enterprise. Some managers described how they had made their employees responsible for different areas and tasks to increase the motivation and the employees’ experience of being needed and required by the organisation. Some managers also described how they had noticed some employees’ leisure interests and utilised those skills in new work tasks for the employee in the workplace, which had been a success for both the enterprise and to the employees’ motivation to work.
3.4.4. Measures to Promote Competence Development in Order to Enable Continued Employability
To execute their work tasks the employees need to have the appropriate knowledge, competence and skills. Some interviewees stated that competence development needs to be continuous to address the changes in work, tasks, as well as to meet changes in the world and technology development. An HR practitioner stated: “As long as you work you need to have the right skills to do the job. That is pretty simple. The day you stop training is, well, on the day you go home”. That the staff has the appropriate knowledge and abilities lies not least in the interests of the enterprise and the organisation. It is costly to lose competence and to have to recruit new employees. A manager said: “Retaining and developing staff is important for the work and business. It is true that hiring a new mechanic, it costs about a million before they are up and running and fully productive. And if you let go of a mechanic who worked here, you must start all over again. We continuously train a huge amount here in the workplace as well. And we did not have to dismiss anyone for that reason”. It was described as an important measure both to the employees and to the organisation that employees are enabled to continue their employability.
3.4.5. Competence Development Regardless of Age
Cognitive ageing affects individuals’ reactions, memory and ability to store knowledge, this was described by some of the interviewees. A manager said: “Elderly may need more time to learn new things that are not in line with their previous knowledge. But I have not worked with someone who had to leave his post because he could not handle the new technology. But it’s just giving them different durations of time”. Unfortunately, there were managers who indicated that they did not really see the benefit of training and developing the competence of senior employees who would be leaving working life soon. A manager said: “To be completely honest, it is the younger employees that we want to invest in. The elderly are already on their way out of here”. But there were also managers who, on the contrary, saw it as more important to invest new knowledge and competence development in the senior employees because they already had extensive knowledge, therefore they could add more value to the business directly. “I can see it almost in the way that in younger employees you have to invest a lot of money. You must educate. You must make sure they go on. But then when people are over 50, then you can harvest. Then you get the return! You don’t have to keep them going. They know their stuff! They are self-sufficient! They take their own development initiatives to the extent needed! You get a lot of stuff. It’s harvest time!” Many of the participants stated that an important measure to enable employees to continue working until an older age was that they continued to develop their competence and skills until the day they ended their working life.
3.4.6. Organisational Culture That Acknowledges and Utilises (Senior) Employees’ Experience and Knowledge
On having lived a long life, a person accumulates many positive and negative experiences and generic skills that can be added to book learning from formal education. The use of this experience-based knowledge was highlighted by several different interviewees. The participants described how measures to enable the senior employee’s experience-based knowledge to be utilised in the work tasks were valuable for the senior employee, being able to use and get access to this experience-based knowledge, which also contributed to their experience of feeling valuable, and that this experiential knowledge was a valuable asset for organisations and enterprises. A senior employee said: “It is important to utilise skills. Leave us the freedom to do our job based on our expertise. So that we can help and support if you need to discuss something, and at the same time that there is a possibility for us to have support if we need support at work”. Measures to transfer and exchange knowledge and competence between the generations were identified as a significant investment to both new employees, the senior employees and to the work organisation. A manager said: “It is important to have the opportunity of utilising the elderly’s competence and commitment. They may practise some sort of mentoring and transfer their knowledge to different teams”. Furthermore, senior employees who possessed special skills were more interesting for the employer to retain and they gladly met these employees’ demands for adaptation of work tasks, just to be able to keep these employees until an older age. A trade union representative said: “It takes a long time to build experience, so some people with what they have gone through are worth gold to the organisation./…/ I think it makes you a little bit special to the enterprise and you have better opportunity in negotiations. Maybe that you can work three days a week, then we make this deal. Then these people (senior employees) feel a little bit like, a little proud, you see”. Measures to promote and increase an organisational culture where the employees’ knowledge, no matter if it is experience-based knowledge or knowledge from education, is utilised and considered important to the organisation, seem to motivate and stimulate senior employees to keep working until an older age according to several of the interviewees.
3.4.7. Summary about the Execution of Work Tasks
Measures to promote knowledge, competence development, creativity and intrinsic motivation in the performance of work tasks were described by the interviewees as an important strategy to enable employees to participate in a sustainable working life until an older age. Furthermore, that the organisational culture lets older employees have the possibility of developing skills and be included in the development and new projects in the workplace regardless of age. Rotation of work tasks could be a way to learn new skills and abilities to keep employees employable in the organisation, but also in the case of reorganisations and change in the production. Rotation of tasks, e.g., changing occupation and activities within the organisation and switching work tasks was also suggested to make change of duties, to reduce monotony in tasks, and to increase motivation and job satisfaction. To utilise the senior employees’ experience-based knowledge by asking them to mentor new employees is a way of exchanging knowledge between generations and was described as a measure to increase the motivation and meaningfulness at work, but also to increase the employees’ employability and total know-how within the organisation.