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How Meaningful Work Can Keep You Mentally Young


Obtaining an engaged and motivated workforce is arguably as important now as it has ever been, largely because it’s a task that our employers have been failing more often than not.  There can be a sense at times that in order to survive in our rapidly changing times you need a young and dynamic workforce with the energy and verve to adapt to the changes occurring in your market.

Alas, a recent study suggests that being physically young is much less important than being mentally young.  The study, which saw over 15,000 workers from over 100 organisations surveyed to see how our mental vitality influences the kind of performances we put in at work each day.

How our mental age influences our performance

It’s easy to believe that age is crucial to performance at work, and noted thinkers such as Warren Bennis have highlighted how youthful teams often make significant breakthroughs in terms of innovation and creativity because they aren’t burdened by any status quo.  In terms of more general performance however, there would appear to be much more to explore when it comes to the effect age has on the workplace.

After all, the advantage of youth outlined by Bennis et al is as much an advantage of mindset as it is our age per se.  This mindset theme has been common in various studies of this issue, with a sense that younger people are keen to develop their talents, built up their networks and thus advance their careers in the right way.  Older employee, so the legend goes, lack much of this and are instead in a much more defensive mindset where their priority is maintaining what they already have.

If these mindsets are really what matters, is it possible for older people to have this ideal approach too?

Being young at heart

The survey revealed that employees who believed themselves to be a lot younger (mentally) than their physical age were indeed better at achieving their goals at work.  What’s more, it emerged that organizations who contained a lot of these mentally young employees also outperformed their peers across a number of metrics, including efficiency, financial performance and even length of tenure.

So what encourages such people to join an organisation?  The survey suggests that young at heart employees are attracted to organisations that provide a range of age-inclusive policies, but also to organizations that provide them with important and meaningful work.

Suffice to say, as with any research, a note of caution is sensible, but the research does underline a couple of interesting points.  Firstly, meaningful and important work continues to emerge as a huge factor in both a motivated workforce and a successful organization.

Secondly, with society, and therefore our workforce, gradually ageing, the study highlights a number of key factors that can help maintain vitality and energy within our organizations, even as the workforce ages.  Energy doesn’t have to be something solely for the young bucks.

Does your own workplace help you to feel mentally young?

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