Research finds employees more productive when they feel young

A new study has found that employees are more productive and achieve more when they feel younger than they are.

The study, It matters how old you feel by Florian Kunze, Anneloes Raes and Heike Bruch, identifies two factors that help employees to perceive themselves as younger: having meaningful work and the absence of age-exclusive HR practices.

They found that, where normally an employee’s focus will shift towards maintenance and loss-reduction as they age, in organisations where employees feel younger than their years they remain focused on professional development and growth. In turn, this leads to a business that is more productive and achieves more.

“Clearly it is in the best interests of organisations to help their workforces feel younger than their chronological age,” Anneloes Raes writes in an article, It isn’t how old you are, but how old you feel.

In the study Raes and her colleagues looked at 107 German companies from five industry sectors: production, wholesale, retail, service and finance. They found that employees under the age of 25 actually felt slightly older than their age. But for the rest of the sample, the older the employees got, the younger they felt. Overall, in their sample, people saw themselves as an average of four years younger than their actual age.

However, other studies have found that there are huge differences between actual age and subjective age in different countries. In the UK, for example, the average gap between how old employees are and how old they feel is 10 years.

Richard Branson is a keen supporter of the idea that it’s important to maintain a youthful approach in life – and especially in business. “It’s easy to get weighed down in the stresses of adulthood; however we should never lose our sense of adventure,” he says. “If happiness is the goal – and it should be! – then adventure should be a top priority. And, the Virgin Founder believes, the best way to enjoy the adventure is by invoking childlike sensibilities and seeking out fun.

“My number one rule in business and in life is to have fun. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s that simple. Life is not a dress rehearsal, so, like a child, we shouldn’t waste time doing things that don’t light our fires. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and instead ask yourself is what I’m about to do going to make people smile. If the answer is yes, then do it.”

Thumbnail from gettyimages.


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