To make more employees stay longer at work has been and still is a goal for the Norwegian authorities. The issue is given a high political priority. The main reason for the focus on this topic is the demographic challenge caused by a declining birth rate (1,43 in 2020) and an increasing proportion of seniors in the population. To preserve the levels of production and services, Norway needs to succeed in recruiting more of the inhabitants who are excluded from work to the job sector, secure a transition from part time to full time work and make more seniors motivated to stay some additional years at work.

Some regulations regarding the latter challenge are embodied in the Norwegian «Working Environment Act» (WEA) passed by Parliament in 2005.

The main purpose of the Act is:

  1. to secure a working environment that provides a basis for a healthy and meaningful working situation that affords full safety from harmful physical and mental influences and that always has a standard of welfare consistent with the level of technological and social development of society.
  2. to ensure sound conditions of employment and equality of treatment at work.
  3. to facilitate a satisfactory climate for expression in the undertaking.
  4. to facilitate adaptions of the individual employee’s working situation in relation to his or her capabilities and circumstances of life (highlighted by author)
  5. to provide a basis whereby the employer and the employees may themselves safeguard and develop their working environment.
  6. to foster inclusive working conditions.

The ordinary retirement age in Norway is 67 years. The possible level for retirement regarding employees in private sector was in 2020 raised to 72 years. The Working Environment Act (section15-13 a) states that «Employment may be terminated when an employee reaches the age of 72». A white paper proposing the same upper retirement age for public sector is being discussed (March 2021).

The WEA also imposes employers to adjust work tasks to the life situation of employees.

Section 4-2 (2b) states: «The work shall be organised and arranged regarding the employee’s capacity for work, proficiency, age and other conditions» (highlighted by author).

The employer has a general obligation to consider each employee’s possibilities when the work situation shall be adapted. Work ability, qualifications and age should be part of this evaluation.

If an employee because of age has his/her working capacity reduced the employer is obliged as far as possible to facilitate conditions to secure that the employee can continue in the job. Such adaptions may include:

  • change of routines, work hours, support from colleagues.
  • necessary changes at workplace (ergonomics, light, furniture etc)
  • education and training

According to the WEA it is forbidden to discriminate against employees because of age. This applies to all aspects of the working relationship: announcement of position, appointment, replacement (to other tasks etc), education/retraining, wage terms and working conditions.

Older employees have, in short, the same legal rights as the rest of the working stock.

The WEA (section 19 – Penal provisions) underlines that «Any proprietor of an undertaking, employer or person managing an undertaking in the employer’s stead who wilfully or negligently breaches the provisions or orders (in this Act) shall be liable to a fine, imprisonment for up to one year or both».

Political consensus and goals, rules and regulations may form a solid platform to secure the rights of senior employees but will never alone ensure that senior employees have the full possibility to remain at work. To obtain these goals one need to develop strategies and concrete measures within each enterprise and workplace, whether it is found on private or public sector.

These measures must be founded on senior employees’ own needs, assessments and wishes. 

A study from the Norwegian Work Research Institute (AFI) – a social science institute performing multidisciplinary action-oriented research - published in 2021 based on interviews with and questionnaires to seniors’ pinpoints what is important to keep seniors longer at work.

  • Seniors want to experience that they contribute. This implies that they have enough work tasks, that they are being stimulated and that they can cope with their tasks.
  • Seniors are motivated by and feel job satisfaction when they can use their competence and experience through feedback from colleagues and leaders.
  • A socially including and supporting work environment is important to keep seniors at work.

The AFI study was limited to the public work sector, but we can with great probability assume that the same priorities apply to employees in private businesses.

Despite these efforts, many 55+ seniors struggle to get new jobs and are not even likely to be invited to job interviews.

Since such projects in companies have an impact on strengthening the health of staff, reducing health problems, the question arises about their effectiveness in mitigating the consequences of the demographic crisis, which depend, among other things, on the health of employees?

The experience of the "Empower Yourself" partnership indicates the potential of health promotion in the area under discussion. As for individual work ability, it is much easier to influence its individual determinants (e.g., employee health) than the ability to work itself. Many incidents prove the positive, albeit small, impact of health-promoting interventions on increasing individual work capacity. Despite underdeveloped research in companies themselves, health-promoting interventions for employees are identified in the literature as an important tool for maintaining or improving work ability. This is of particular importance given the projected rate of population aging and the increase in the proportion of older personnel in companies. It is also necessary to take into account the peculiarities of this group expressed by: the accumulation of health problems, which is due to both the increase in the percentage of employees experiencing them with age and the number of chronic conditions per person certain differences in ways of thinking and acting in the sphere of health compared to younger employees. Unfortunately, knowledge regarding the effectiveness of workplace health promotion among older workers is largely incomplete.

The "Empower yourself" partnership within the framework of the Erasmus + program has enriched the developed development program for 55+ people in the work environment with multimedia material in the form of 30 video workshops MINDFULNESS - improving the quality of life and work. These will be individual trainings of mindfulness, mindfulness exercises, designed for people 55+ who do not cope with stress and negative emotions, are burdened with negative emotions and experiences in their personal and professional lives, this training will also be helpful for symptoms of depression in people of pre-retirement age.

In the experience of the partnership, especially that of the coordinator in charge of the Holistic Coach School, mindfulness practice helps to reduce the number of ruminations and alleviate the negative effects of stress. The goal of these individual video workshops is therefore to raise the awareness of the 55+ participants at moments when they are triggered by a strong desire to change their attitude toward difficult emotions, to move from discomfort toward greater tolerance and acceptance. Being in the process of change in a development project, program participants can (and it is even recommended) reinforce the work with a career coach or HR specialist with just daily (or every 2nd day breathing and relaxation exercises).
This will increase 55+ people's awareness of their own thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations and give them a broader perspective on their own experiences. Working on sent health and emotions, will undoubtedly affect the use of social engagement of people 55+ not only in Poland, but also in Europe.

In the first period of the tender, the preparations related to the scenarios and topic collection took place. During the writing of the texts of the 24 scenarios, we discussed their themes and final form several times. In relation to the scenarios being prepared, it was an important aspect to include activities in each workshop that allow not only to delve deeper into the topic, but also indirect communication between the participants and personal experience.

As an introduction to the volume containing the scenarios, we also prepared an advisory module, which deals with the challenges and development and motivational characteristics of employees 55+. The study not only provides an introduction to the topic, but also provides an insight into the related literature.

The finished texts were then translated into English, and then the translation of the English version of the texts originally written in Polish and Norwegian into Hungarian began.

In the fall of 2021, we started organizing pilot workshops and dissemination events for the professional audience. PBKIK (Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Pécs-Baranya, Hungary)  and PTE KTK (University of Pécs, Faculty of Business and Economy, Pécs, Hungary) provided a framework for these. During the events, on the one hand, we drew attention to the challenges related to the 55+ workforce and the opportunities inherent in them, and on the other hand, we introduced them to the methodological material created during the project. Since we held three workshops with 55+ employees in December 2021, we were able to bring their experiences to the spring workshop for experts. We also created roll ups and flyers for the events.

The first pilot workshop for professionals took place in October 2021, followed by two dissemination sessions in December 2021. For the first time, we introduced the program and the related problem to graduating economics students, and then to HR professionals, business leaders, and managers participating in postgraduate training. The second time, we managed to extend the topic to the field of organizational learning, and thus the scenarios and the professional framework, in addition to the previous target group-specific approach, were deeply embedded in the domain of organizational development.

In November 2021, we took part in a study trip, during which we had the opportunity to meet Norwegian organizations dealing with the challenges of aging workers. It was shocking to see that ageism makes it difficult to find employment even in Scandinavian countries. We incorporated the connections learned during the course of study into the material of the above-mentioned professional programs, and as a result, we managed to confirm in many professionals that it is worth dealing with the challenges related to the topic and looking for solutions to them.

We displayed the events we organized on our website and communicated them not only through HICS channels, but also through our personal social media channels.

The events related to the project appeared in PBKIK's communication channels, and during our organizational development work among SMEs, dozens of company managers were able to learn about new methods of exploiting the potential of 55+ employees. Since the actors of the workshops were HR and organizational development specialists of the Human Club of PBKIK, the professional materials created during the project entered the local professional environment, and several professionals are already using them in their work.

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