An interview with Harry Stehrenberger was conducted to learn more about working at an older age from the perspective of seniors@work and his personal view on the topic. How does this relate to HEROES?
Can you briefly introduce yourself and seniors@work?
Seniors@work is a recruitment platform for people shortly before and after retirement. The platform mediates in job placement, mostly for paid work, although voluntary work is not excluded. The underlying vision is to create a world where people can remain professionally active even in their retirement years. Especially during times of skilled labor shortages, motivated retirees become a crucial pillar of the Swiss economy. Seniors@work connects the potential of the older generation with businesses and promotes meaningful exchange between generations. Stehrenberger is involved in the organisation as a shareholder and as an upcoming brand ambassador. Agewise he now also falls within the targeted age group of seniors@work and is still in the midst of working life. He owns an IT company that mainly helps start-ups and is a lecturer at two Swiss universities in the field of IT bank management and business administration.
Are there many people 60+ looking for work through the platform? What motivates them?
At the beginning, seniors@work was mainly focused on people aged sixty or over, but what you see now is that there is an increasing number of people who are already in their fifties and are no longer professionally working or change jobs and are looking for flexible work arrangements. The platform keeps on growing, not just because people need work for financial reasons, but also because they want to stay occupied and contribute to society. Paid work is thus also a form of value appreciation that is given back by society. Working older people are intrinsically motivated to engage with challenging content and to create value. Experience does not age. Such is the motto of seniors@work.
How would you describe the profile of the people who are working at 60+ and what kind of work are they looking for?
There are a lot of qualitied people who work via seniors@work. Generally, they work more in services than in sectors requiring heavy physical labour (this applies to both higher and lower educated people). After all, they are still sharp as a tack, while physically demanding work generally is more difficult. With services you can think of audit companies or start-ups. They are often looking for extra manpower during peak periods or can make good use of the experience and knowledge of senior employees (who in their turn often find it extra exciting to work with young people on new ventures). Also, jobs in retail, sales, marketing, interim management and consultancy are popular.
What are the ideal working conditions for people over 60? What should improve?
Ideally more and more people work part-time (job sharing), flexible, autonomous and remote. This does not only apply to people working at an older age, but for example also starters or young parents. You can also call it the new way of working, which all of us got to experience in some type of way during the Corona pandemic. Looking forward, companies should consciously define more flexible jobs to facilitate this new way of working. However, this is still a challenge, since many managers are still set on project-oriented full-time work, where you must be at your workplace from nine am to five pm five days a week. Some sectors are struggling more with this than others. Still, the pandemic showed that when it comes down to it, people will do a good job, also in a more flexible working environment. At least, that is the personal belief of Harry Stehrenberger. Another point of attention is that there are companies, such as in banking and IT, that prefer to part with their older employees due to increasing costs. This creates an additional tension with regard to the existing workforce shortage that is being experienced all over Europe. Seniors@work tries to mediate in this.
Could the HEROES app be helpful for adults 60+ who want to work after retirement?
Absolutely, says Stehrenberger. The idea of building up a caring community that does not only mediate between people looking for and providing care, but also for more supporting tasks, whether it is helping with doing the groceries, gardening or simply just having someone to drink a coffee with, is potentially a powerful tool to enable a more self-determined life. Even more powerful is when the younger seniors would use the platform to support the older seniors, not just to bring in their expertise as expert reviewer, but also as caregiver. Without wanting to exclude medically oriented care, Harry Stehrenberger sees more potential in the use of HEROES for care activities that do not require a professional medical education. There are many ways in which people within the community can help each other.
What advantages and/or disadvantages do you foresee?
Looking at HEROES as a caring community, with the app being just a tool to be able to manage it, the biggest advantage is that it has the potential to actually grow big. Big enough to form a functioning caring community. However, this also brings up a disadvantage: it takes months, maybe even years to build up such a community and for this, you need a managing organization behind the application. In Switzerland this is not yet the case. Besides that, it also takes technological affinity to work with such an app, which may deter some people from using it. That being said, Stehrenberger does think that the need for it is there and therefore also a potential market. People need social relations and support, not just care. This may apply even more so to single households. In Zürich, about 50% of the households are single households and in Eastern Switzerland one out of three households. Here we are not only talking about younger and older seniors who are living alone, but also young adults. HEROES may bring these groups together, both for care as well as for (social) support.