Building a Bridge from Fulltime Work to Retirement

Worker on a bridge
Date: 
February 4, 2019

By: Riley Swab

Although older workers contribute valuable ideas, knowledge, and experience to the workforce, these can often be overshadowed by their potential loss in innovative ideas and physical abilities (Zacher, Kooij, & Beier, 2018). A solution to this cost-benefit analysis may be bridge employment, which is a type of partial retirement taken between fulltime work and full retirement (Beehr, & Bennett, 2014). Bridge employment is similar to short-term work, with the hours being more flexible than part-time employment, but the end goal being full retirement in a relatively short amount of time. Bridge employment allows the workforce to take advantage of older workers’ benefits, while limiting the amount of time their disadvantages would negatively impact their working ability.

One benefit to bridge employment is that it offers older workers the chance to focus on mentoring younger workers, leveraging their increased experience and knowledge to help the workforce (Beehr, & Bennett, 2014). This also allows older workers to leave a tangible legacy behind. This mentorship keeps the older workers connected to the workforce even once they pass into full retirement, as it fosters an active interpersonal connection through the mentee.

Bridge employment also offers security in older workers’ identity. Beehr and Bennett (2014) found that an older worker’s occupation tends to be a source of identity or status, which is often lost during retirement or the later days of working. Bridge employment allows these older workers to ease into retirement by giving them time to find other sources of identity. Without bridge employment, many retired workers find themselves suddenly with no workplace or job to accomplish, causing them to quickly reevaluate their identity or status. Bridge employment, however, gives more time towards this transition, changing it from a rapid or sudden transition to a gradual transition.

Furthermore, bridge employment allows older workers who have not saved enough for retirement to supplement their retirement funds without committing to the hours of full-time employment (Beehr & Bennett, 2014). Increased retirement age is becoming increasingly more common as workers are forced to remain in the workforce because of a lack of money. This pressing need for money often overshadows the potential drawbacks of continuing to work full time as an older work (Beehr & Bennett, 2014). Bridge employment, however, allows older workers to continue making money without committing to the hours of full-time employment.

Bridge employment may be a viable option for encouraging active aging in the workforce by providing older workers the benefit of continued job satisfaction. Older workers’ identity or status is also often helped through bridge employment by providing them a more gradual transition out of the workforce, as opposed to going straight from full employment to full retirement. Bridge employment also benefits younger workers by providing them mentors with knowledge and experience. Although current studies have researched the reasoning behind bridge employment, the outcome of bridge employment is still an area that needs to be better researched.

References

Beehr, T. A., & Bennett, M.M, 2014. Working After Retirement: Features of Bridge Employment and Research Directions. Work, Aging and Retirement, 1(1), 112-128. http://doi.org/10.1093/workar/wau007

Zacher, H., Koiij, D.T.A.M., & Beier, M.E. (2018). Active aging at work: Contributing factors and implications for organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 47(1), 37-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2017.08.001

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