February 14, 2017
New research into the effect of retirement on wellbeing commissioned by The What Works Centre for Wellbeing claims that those who gradually reduce their working time with more flexible hours improve their levels of wellbeing. The study looked at all existing research and found that part-time working towards the end of our careers improves life satisfaction. It advises that employers should support older workers to ‘wind-down’ into retirement with bridging jobs or reduce their working hours to avoid poor wellbeing, a new international study reveals. However, the research highlights that this depends on whether employees had control over when they retired, rather than being forced out through ill health or restructuring. If people take up bridging jobs because of financial strain, their wellbeing drops. Even after accounting for income and health, wellbeing is higher for those who have control over the timing or plan for their retirement, and voluntary retirees derive greater pleasure from free time in retirement. On the contrary, wellbeing is lower for those who are involuntarily retired, especially due to health reasons.
The study also found that leaving a more prestigious, satisfying job decreases your life satisfaction on retirement; men struggle more when they retire if their wives are still working and predictably, retirees who are satisfied with their home lives and had support networks fare better.
Nancy Hey, director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, which commissioned the research by the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Reading and Sheffield, said: “Good work is really important for our overall life satisfaction and how we retire matters. When we’ve gone around the UK asking what quality of life looks like, the importance of wellbeing at work consistently comes up.
“Policy needs to reflect the changing patterns and ways of working, and how that impacts how, why and when we retire. A sudden shift from employed to retired isn’t working.”
Mark Bryan, Reader in Economics at University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, commented: “The evidence on wellbeing points to the importance of giving people control over their retirement decision – both through support for people who wish to stay in work and decent pension provision for those who wish to retire.”