Not only is technology well utilised by older workers, its application and introduction to the work-place is better understood and more seamless with the more mature fraternity.  It seems that older workers can offer a flexible and collaborative approach required to improve the work environment. The idea that older workers struggle more than their younger colleagues with technology has been debunked by a new survey by Dropbox, which looks at tech usage and adoption in the workplace, and its impact on productivity, creativity and happiness.

The biggest myth that the survey explodes is the technological advantage of the millennial “digital natives.” Data actually shows that levels of adoption of new technologies are pretty even across age ranges. Older workers are just as likely to use as much technology as their younger peers.

However, it appears that younger workers are more stressed out, anxious and frustrated by it than their older peers. For example, in the UK over a third (36% of Millennials (18–34) find using technology at work stressful compared to only a quarter of those aged 55+ (25%). This seemed counter-intuitive at first, but I can think of a reasonable explanation: “it just works” technologies like smart-phones, Dropbox, social networking, etc. have become completely ubiquitous in the personal lives of younger workers. But let’s face it, the software used to get work done in the office hasn’t historically met that same standard of simplicity. So perhaps when millennials in the office are confronted with a messy array of technologies that do not function seamlessly, stress levels increase? For workers who have been around a bit longer, technology has always been a work in progress, and experience and know-how comes to the fore to tackle issues and provide solutions.

Dropbox managing director (ANZ) Charlie Wood says the survey results redress some commonly held misconceptions about age and technology. This study of IT decision makers (202 surveyed) and information workers (500 surveyed), found information workers in the 55+ age group used more tech devices (5.4) than the total average (5.0). They also reported experiencing fewer tech-related problems and far lower levels of tech-induced stress than workers in the Gen X and Gen Y age categories. So read these stats carefully….only 17% of people aged 55+ reported having problems with tech compared to 33% of the number of 18-35s. Additionally, 16% of the 55+ age group find their experience of using technology at work stressful whereas 35% of the 18–34 year-old age group do…..myth dispelled!

The results highlight the gulf between perception and reality when it comes to how tech and older workers are viewed in the workplace. Answers to the survey questions showed the main differences within the survey were not based on age, sector or seniority but had much more to do with tech usage and working style. So what does this mean for the tech industry?

These misconceptions could potentially lead to IT managers wrongly attributing age as a factor in tech adoption and usage, which may even lead to discrimination against older workers in some cases. “IT managers and colleagues might be making assumptions based on someone’s age when in fact that person is very comfortable with using tech solutions and adopting the right ones for them when they deem it necessary,” Wood says.

“The focus on age is something that’s just not borne out by what we see in the survey, where workers aged 55+ are using as many or more devices in their work as their younger colleagues.”

“In addition to that, they seem to be managing those devices very well, which indicates maybe young workers could learn a thing or two about how to incorporate tech into their work routine in a more seamless manner,” he said.

Rather than factors such as age, Wood says it is more useful to think about tech usage and adoption and how it affects productivity, creativity and collaborative practices at work by looking at workers across four key categories:

          The non-flexible, non collaborating worker

          The non-flexible, collaborating worker

          The flexible, non-collaborating worker

          The flexible, collaborating worker

The survey results found ‘flexible, collaborating workers’ were the happiest, most productive and most open to new technology among all those surveyed. Perhaps it’s the older demographic that can provide the impetus and answer to the UK’s productivity problem we keep hearing about?

Source: Dropbox/Anthill Magazine/Prime Candidate