Change is inevitable, but it is predicated that changes to how we work over the next five years will have the greatest human impact there has been for a generation. There’s no doubting that the rise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and other next-gen technologies will continue the benefits of cloud technologies – for people and business, but they will also see some of us displaced from what has been our career journey so far.

As individuals, we adapt to change differently, and it is important that employers take this into consideration. As a Physiologist at AXA PPP, I published this case study, designed to help create a Happier and Healthier Workplace.

Technology aside

Beyond advances in innovation, one of the other great changes we will see as we move beyond 2025 is in the demographic of the workforce. The world’s population is ageing. Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the number and proportion of older persons in their population. This also means a higher proportion of older workers than ever before.

HR teams need to prepare for the shifts associated with an ageing population to ensure progress and business objectives are achieved. For organisations wishing to adhere to the UN sustainable development goals, there is also an obligation for “ensuring healthy lives and well-being at all ages, promoting gender equality and full and productive employment and decent work for all”.

As life expectancy continues to rise, so too does the retirement age for many people. As we live longer it is suggested that we can also work longer. If we look at the UK for a moment, between 2015 and 2025, the number of people aged 65 years and older in England and Wales will increase by 19.4% (Guzman-Castillo, 2017). To support an ageing population, we will be expected to retire later. The Office of National Statistics predicts that a (24-year-old female) can expect to live to 90 on average and receive their state pension at 68.

But a longer life expectancy does not necessarily mean more years in good health. The number living with disability is predicted to increase by 25·0% by 2025 (Guzman-Castillo, 2017).

So how can we work happier and healthier for longer?

Let’s look at Japan for inspiration. Japan is the country with the current highest life expectancy. In Japan, women on average live to 87 and men to 81. Japan also leads the healthy life expectancy table. They can expect to live 75 years in good health, without disability.

Learning from the Ama Divers

An example of an older, happy, healthy workforce in Japan is the Ama divers, they dive to collect seafood of the Ise-shima Peninsula. Known as the ‘women of the sea’, many of these traditional free-diving women are in their eighties! But what is it about the Ama divers that keeps them happy, healthy and working into their eighties?

In a recent BBC documentary when asked what is the secret to living so long? the Ama divers responded: ‘We don’t worry too much. We are not stressed. It’s also good to have friends around. If you’re friends with those around you, you’re much more relaxed.’

I believe the key take away from the Ama divers’ response, is the importance of investing in our own and others wellbeing. Furthermore, this anecdotal evidence can be backed by scientific research. Individuals with high levels of subjective wellbeing can expect to live 4-10 years longer (Diener & Chan, 2011).

So how can we boost workplace wellbeing?

Invest in our relationships. The Ama divers have a strong sense of community and social connection with each other. The importance of quality social connections has also been backed by research. The Harvard study of adult development followed 724 men for 75 years and found the quality of social connections to predict future happiness, health and longevity (Simington, 2017). Furthermore, happiness spreads through our social networks, research has found a nearby friend who becomes happy increases your probability of becoming happy by 63% (Fowler, & Christakis, 2008)!

So, call instead of email, share a lift to work, ask a colleague how they are doing. Invest in the quality of your relationships, inside and outside of work.

Incorporate physical activity. Our jobs may not be as active as free driving, but there are still things we can do to break up the periods of inactivity and reduce stress. For example, build a stretching routine at your desk, take a lunch time walk, arrange a walking meeting or plan an active commute.

Regular physical activity is associated with higher levels of wellbeing, and lower rates of depression and anxiety (Biddle & Ekkekakis, 2005, Callaghan, 2004).

Looking ahead to 2025

In 2025 we will be living and working longer. As a result, it’s more important than ever to invest in our long-term health. A great way to do this is to prioritise wellbeing.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and have taken away some ideas of how you can invest in your happiness and health.

For more information regarding health and wellbeing visit the AXA health gateway.

Amy Creedon is Physiologist, Health Services, at AXA PPP Healthcare

Additional references  
Biddle, S. J., & Ekkekakis, P. (2005). Physically active lifestyles and well-being. The science of well-being, 140, 168.
Callaghan, P. (2004). Exercise: A neglected intervention in mental health care? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, H, 476-483.
Diener, E., & Chan, M.Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: subjective wellbeing contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Wellbeing.
Fowler, J.H., & Christakis N.A. (2008). Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study. British Medical Journal.
Guzman-Castillo, M., Ahmadi-Abhari, S., Bandosz, P., Capewell, S., Steptoe, A., Singh-Manoux, A., ... & O'Flaherty, M. (2017). Forecasted trends in disability and life expectancy in England and Wales up to 2025: a modelling study. The Lancet Public Health, 2(7), e307-e313.
Japan with Sue Perkins, Episode 2, 2019, BBC official website, visited 1 November 2019, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m0008kgf/japan-with-sue-perkins 
Simington, M.O. (2017). The way you make me feel. Health & Wellness. Phi Kappa Phi Journal.