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Research finds the age of discontent at work starts at just 35

Underappreciation and stress fuel discontent as employees get older, with happiness at work falling after the age of 35

Research by Happiness Works on behalf of Robert Half UK has revealed that almost one fifth (17%) of people over the age of 55 are unhappy at work. Those in Generation X don’t fare much better with 16% of 35-54 year olds admitting they are also unhappy in their roles. This is double the number of Millennials that said the same. In stark contrast to the older generations, less than one in ten (8%) of those aged 18-34 claimed to be unhappy in their jobs.

The full report, It’s time we all work happy™: The secrets of the happiest companies and employees, looked at what influences employee happiness in the workplace and showed that older generations are more heavily affected by workplace stress. One third (34%) of those aged over 35 found their job stressful. This figure is significantly lower for 18-35 year olds where only a quarter (25%) said they suffered from stress. Complaints about work-life balance also come into play the older you are. In total, 12% of those aged 35-54 and 17% of those aged over 55 struggle to juggle work with other aspects of their life. In comparison, just one in 10 Millenials feel the same.

Overall, 68% of 18-34 year olds felt more free to be themselves at work, with more than half (55%) of this generation, saying that they were able to be creative at work. This compared to 38% of Generation X and 31% of 55+ year olds, who said they were able to be creative. As employees get older, they are also far less likely to view their colleagues as friends. In fact, 14% of those aged 35-54 years old and 16% of those aged over 55 said they don’t have good friends at work, clearly keeping their work and social lives separate. By comparison, three in five (62%) 18-34 year olds said that they had good friends at work.

For those aged over 35, a little appreciation could go a long way. Overall, 60% of those aged 18-35 feel appreciated and just 15% feel undervalued. In comparison, a quarter (25%) of 35-54 year olds feel underappreciated, with this figure rising to 29% for those aged over 55.

“Employees that are aged over 35 have valuable experience that the whole organisation can learn and benefit from,” explained Phil Sheridan, Senior Managing Director at Robert Half UK. “It’s important that their happiness is not neglected, so businesses need to take the time to invest in their staff at all levels. Simple things like conducting regular performance reviews, offering new opportunities for learning and setting ambitious career goals are all steps that can ensure more tenured workers feel appreciated and that career goals don’t become static.”