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I’ve spoken with a few organisations recently who have mentioned that they have staff who are too scared to start their retirement and create a life beyond work. Can you guess the main reason?

They’ve made work their everything, and are scared that they will become isolated and alone.

This may not be the same for everyone, but often when there’s resistance, there’s a fear.

  • fear of isolation
  • fear of loss of identity
  • fear of not being valued
  • fear of lack of money
  • fear of getting bored
  • fear of not using your grey matter
  • fear of not being relevant!

These were all fears that came up when I was speaking with a group of women who were 1-2 years post workforce. Some found the first year easy, but then felt lost. Others suffered with a lack of structure, and then discovered what worked for them. Some found their self-worth took a battering. Those who had managed well had several things in common:

  1. they already had some elements of this new lifestyle in place before they clocked off;
  2. they had played a role in how they transitioned out of the workforce by phasing out of work, and into their new lifestyle;
  3. they had an awareness of what was important to them, what they valued, rather than feeling pressure (especially from family) to do what others thought they should do with their lives;
  4. having a strong sense of self and giving themselves permission to design their life how they wanted to.

So what can you do as an organisation to support your staff as they start to consider life beyond the pay cheque so that people can be empowered through the process. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Have honest, respectful conversations to help people plan their futures. Many people feel concerned that if they raise their desire to retire, they won’t be given opportunities, and will start to become invisible within the organisation. Start to set precedents that show this is not the case.
  2. Build future planning into annual performance reviews by asking “What’s your 2-5 year plan?” If it’s playing on someone’s mind, then this may give them a forum to raise it and create a strategy around it.
  3. The case for flexible work arrangements is far more prominent now, so get creative on how you can set up job sharing or part time opportunities so all of that intellectual property doesn’t just walk out the door.
  4. Incorporate workshops on planning for retirement by bringing in a financial planner from your superannuation company, a coach to discuss the lifestyle and mindset issues (if you’re looking for some ideas, take a look here).

I know this can be tricky ground to navigate with staff, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it altogether. Perhaps the starting point might simply be letting staff know that you are keen to put together some support in this area, and asking them what sort of information and support they would like if they were starting to consider making this change.