A 100 year life and what it means for the world of work

30 November 2016

Time is precious, we all say so often – so what would we really do with more of it?

What if at the end of every day you had another 6-8 hours?

Far from a wish, this is very quickly becoming a reality. It’s no surprise to hear we’re living for longer – by 2017, the life expectancy for girls born in the UK will have risen to 100 years, according to the Office for National Statistics – but as Professor Andrew Scott, co-author of The 100 Year Life and the guest at our latest HRD Leaders Club dinner discussed, what does that mean for the way we live, and work?

A 100 year life has some obvious implications – pensions and how we save for retirement, for one – but there are many that are more subtly disruptive. Longevity isn’t about ageing, it’s about how we organise the whole of our lives.

The implication for employers and individuals is pretty startling. Not since the industrial revolution have we faced such a fundamental change to the accepted model of work. In those days, the introduction of factories effectively introduced the idea of a working day – dawn to dusk in Victorian times, 9 to 5 today.

But if we live to 100, we’ll also work for longer. Someone who lives to the age of 70 has some 125,000 productive hours in them; if you live to 100 this rises to 220,000 productive hours. That’s almost an entire extra working lifetime.

It’s difficult to make reliable predictions – as Peter Thiel, co-founder of Paypal once said “We were promised flying cars but what we got was 140 characters” – but we can say with confidence that longevity will change the way we work. If we live to 100, the chances are that we’ll want to learn throughout our working lives, reskill, find new experiences, maybe take a break, perhaps change horses midstream. We’ll have time, so why not? We can live life to the full – a full century of it.

And that has implications for employers. It means that careers will be curated by the individual rather than employers. It means that parents can raise their children and then have a full career – which will see the gender gap diminishing. Career breaks become less significant and perhaps more attractive. The five-day working week will be slowly chipped away.  Work will be redefined. It won’t be the same, or mean the same.

The HR Directors at our dinner agreed. Purpose will become extremely important; we’re talking about nothing less than defining a new employee value proposition.

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