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Older workers get flexible hours, work-at-home options to keep them from retirement

Faced with a wave of Baby Boomer retirements and a worsening labor shortage, many employers are trying to hold on to their older workers, persuade some to return after retirement and even recruit those retired from other companies. They’re offering flexible arrangements that include part-time schedules, phased retirements that gradually reduce hours, and the option to work from home.

“If you have good employees, you want to keep them,” says Jacqueline James, co-director of the Boston College Center on Aging and Work.

Older workers are often branded as burned out and not technically savvy, says Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. In fact, he says, they have lower rates of absenteeism, less turnover, better job performance and adapt well to new technology.

The share of employers with strategies to retain and recruit older workers is still limited, partly because of the biases, James says. But it’s growing and expected to pick up as the low 3.9% unemployment rate intensifies worker shortages.

Last year, about a quarter of U.S. workers said their employers accommodated flexible work arrangements, up from 19% in 2015, according to a survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Many firms are weighing such policies. “I don’t know of a single company that isn’t trying to retain older workers more actively,” says Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer for the Society for Human Resource Management, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group for HR professionals.

The efforts are pronounced in industries with large shares of workers approaching retirement age, including health care, manufacturing, insurance, accounting and engineering. To address worker shortages, 35% of manufacturers encourage potential retirees to stay on, according to a 2018 survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.

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