Exploring Remote-Work Impacts on Workers Aged 50+

March 15, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the world, impacting everything from product supplies, personal relationships, and the workforce. While shelves will eventually reach pre-pandemic stock and friends and family will one day be able to hug safely again, COVID-19’s impact on the workforce is here to stay. Before the pandemic, only around 5% of full-time employees worked primarily from home. But at the height of the pandemic, over half of Americans were consistently working remotely. That percentage is expected to settle at around 20% to 30% once the world returns to “normal.”

While some full-time employees are used to the working-from-home routine, this new venture is proving difficult for many. Some may expect older generations to have more difficulty transitioning to heavily tech-reliant work, but a recent study shows the exact opposite. Of all generations, baby boomers working remotely reported higher productivity levels, less anxiety, and better communication with colleagues than millennials. Some say ample experience plays a role, but how do older adults feel about remote work? We surveyed over 1,000 remote employees to see how COVID-induced remote work has impacted workers and how their sentiments vary with age.

Shifting Sentiments, Pre- and Post-Pandemic

Remote work has consistently been touted as the solution to many business issues: Work-life balance, freedom, overall well-being, and productivity all increase just from moving employees from the office to their home. But when the transition to remote work is mixed with a pandemic and collapsing economy, many employees feared they would lose their job. While 14% of employees aged 50 and older feared they would be laid off since their company went remote, only 8% of workers under 50 felt the same.

Remote work's impact on older workers

Similarly, employees under 50 were more likely to see an increase in technology confidence during the pandemic than older workers. While only 28.5% of younger employees felt confident with their tech skills before the pandemic, 30.1% felt confident during the pandemic. On the other hand, 32.7% of older workers were confident pre-pandemic, but when faced with technology-heavy work daily during the pandemic, only 29.7% felt confident in their tech skills. Younger employees were also more likely to remain steady in their satisfaction before and during the pandemic, but older adults remained more productive and felt more secure in their jobs than those under 50.

In line with their feelings of productivity, older adults felt more confident in their overall remote working skills, compared to their younger counterparts. Over 30% of employees aged 50 and older rated their remote-work skills as “very good,” while 43% rated their skills as “good.” Employees under 50, however, were more likely to rate these skills as “average,” “poor,” and “very poor.”

Inoculated and Returning to Work

Considering remote work is here to stay for some, are employees on board with the transition? The majority of employees said they are at least moderately likely to return to on-site work once the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed, and most were also willing to do so. Only 6% of employees said they are not at all likely to return to the office, while another 6% said they are not at all willing to either.

Post-Vaccine Plans at work

While certain positions require more on-site work than others, over half of employees across all employment levels said they are willing to return to the office. The most considerable difference came with age: Employees in their 30s were the least willing to return to on-site work once the vaccine was distributed. Forty-seven percent reported as much, while 52.3% of employees in their 20s or younger, 53.6% of employees in their 40s, and 56% of employees 50 or older said the same.

However, with many months left before COVID-19 vaccines are fully distributed, over half of the surveyed employees said they would actually prefer to continue working remotely for the long term.

Financially Ready to Retire

Economic hardship has hit Americans hard, with one-third having to dip into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet. According to our study, those feeling less financially secure due to COVID-19 were the most likely to say they will retire later than expected, while those feeling more financially secure said they would retire sooner than expected.

Financial security due to covid-19 and impact on retirement plans

Living through a pandemic has put life into perspective for most. Emotional priorities, political opinions, and future plans have all been impacted by COVID-19. That said, shifting perspectives may be the direct cause of employees looking to retire early. Overall, nearly 40% of employees planned on retiring sooner than expected, while 20.4% who experienced no financial impact said the same.

Leaving Retirement, Remotely

Retiring early doesn’t mean not working ever again, though. The pandemic had impacted current retirees, too. Forty-five percent of retirees said they’ve applied for remote-work gigs or positions, even though nearly half feel there is a significant technology skill gap to overcome. Despite any potential tech gap, remote work was at least slightly appealing to a whopping 96.6% of retirees.

Plans among current retirees

While quarantine boredom likely played a role in seeking remote work, 23% of retirees felt it was “extremely necessary” for them to come out of retirement to work and generate income due to COVID-19. Considering both boredom and financial necessity, the majority of retirees interested in remote work were only looking for 10 to 20 hours of work per week – just enough to keep them busy and paid without overwhelming their personal time.

Safety First

The working world has undergone a complete makeover in just a matter of months. Millions of furloughs, layoffs, and unemployment filings paired with a fast-paced transition to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic have stirred financial security, priorities, and sentiments about working from home. Older employees arguably had the biggest hill to climb as they were forced to tackle new technologies. But overall, employees 50 and older felt more confident in working remotely than their younger counterparts and were prepared to strengthen their technology skills in the following year.

Whether they return to the office or come out of retirement to take advantage of remote work, keeping older adults safe will remain our goal at Bay Alarm Medical. We provide older adults with the technology to reach emergency call centers whenever necessary with just a push of a button. If you or a loved one needs extra security in the car, while working from home, or at the office, our products can help protect your family and health without sacrificing independence. To browse our offerings or learn more, visit us online today.

Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,029 remote employees who are currently still working remotely due to COVID-19 and asked them questions on job security and how the vaccine might affect their work life. Ages ranged from 18 to 70, with an average age of 37. 52% of respondents were men, and 48% were women. The sample size for remote employees 50 years or older was 184.

We surveyed 181 respondents who reported being retired with ages ranging from 40 to 81 and an average age of 60 and asked them questions on whether or not they felt the remote work landscape made it appealing for them to come out of retirement or pick up part-time or gig work.

Surveys have limitations due to self-reporting, including, but not limited to telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. Data were not weighted and were analyzed for an exploratory study of remote work impacts.

Fair Use Statement

Millions of Americans are exploring the new frontier of remote work filled with uncertainty and productivity loss. If you know someone who could benefit from our findings, feel free to share this study for noncommercial purposes. All we ask is that you include a link back to this page so our contributors receive proper credit.

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