Recent UK retirees’ views about the work-related factors which influenced their decision to retire: a qualitative study within the Health and Employment After Fifty (HEAF) cohort
Stevens MJ., Barker M., Dennison E., Harris EC., Linaker C., Weller S., Walker-Bone K.
Background: Lower birth rates and increasing longevity have resulted in ageing populations in European countries. These demographic changes place challenges on pension provision as numbers of those who are economically inactive and retired increase relative to those in paid work. Therefore, governments need workers to postpone retirement and work to older ages. Whilst health and wealth are important in retirement decision-making, considerably less is known about the effects of workplace factors. The aim of this study was to explore the views of recent UK retirees about the role that work-related factors played in their decision to retire. Methods: This qualitative study was nested within the Health and Employment After Fifty (HEAF) cohort. People who had retired 3-6 years previously (not for health reasons) were purposively sampled to obtain the views of men and women from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and jobs. Semi-structured interviews were carried out by telephone using a pre-defined topic guide. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed thematically. Results: Seventeen interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis showed that retirement decisions were complex and multi-factorial but that work-related factors contributed to decision-making in two main ways. First, some work factors pushed participants towards retirement. These were perceptions that: workplace change had affected the way they were valued or increased pressure on them; work demands, including commuting, had intruded excessively on personal time, effects that were exacerbated by modern technology; work was draining, isolating or under-appreciated; and /or that work was causing physical strain or discomfort relative to their perception of their capacity. In contrast, work factors could also cause participants to pull back towards work, particularly: autonomy; supportive work colleagues; a sense of being appreciated; and perceived job flexibility. Conclusions: Recent retirees explained that their decision to retire was multi-factorial but work-related factors contributed importantly. Potentially, employers could: review workers’ perceptions about their work; their capacity in relation to job demands; increase flexibility; and facilitate a supportive work community to encourage longer working lives.