Seven in ten Americans ages 45-74 say they plan to work in retirement or never retire, according to AARP. In stark contradiction to the single paradigm of “retirement” as an end to work, older Americans are redesigning the whole notion of life and work.

Businesses which negotiate the needs of older executives with flexible work arrangements will leverage an unprecedented opportunity, substituting the feared “brain drain” with a “brain gain” and securing experienced talent for years to come.

A sabbatical offering is one of the more strategic flexible work arrangements for the older generations. In redesigning their later years, they want a “new currency”- time. Sabbaticals offer the over-50 worker – the fastest growing segment in the workforce – an opportunity to take a break and do something that’s been on their dream list, as well as learn new skills, satisfying their need for lifelong learning and goal setting while giving employers continued access to talented, already motivated workers.

Even with all the retirement money can buy (or not buy, given the current state of the stock market), older employees want to continue working and are planning on it.

Older workers who take a planned break from the workplace return rejuvenated and allow employers to continue to leverage their experience, wealth of knowledge and exemplary work ethic. One of the only ways to keep “potential retirees” engaged at work is to offer them time away to pursue the things they would pursue if they were actually retired – a sabbatical. A well-designed sabbatical program is critical to retaining valuable employees at any age, but is particularly relevant to the over 50 set’s goals and aspirations.

Many mature workers are clinging to the notion that they deserve retirement, seeing it as a rest after years of working. With people living longer, healthier lives, it is not unreasonable to consider 25 plus years of “rest” if one retires at 60.

Companies with sabbatical programs for mature workers create “brain gain”:

  • Mature workers are knowledge-transfer agents – passing down critical knowledge to the future generations in the workplace.
  • Retaining older workers keeps companies from costly replacements.
  •  Experienced leaders who retain genuine passion not only continue results-oriented performance but groom future leaders to do the same.
  • Companies that honor flexibility needs will be rewarded with loyalty, maturity and the lion’s share of time and energy from a work force that has a strong desire to stay engaged. 

Companies without sabbatical programs for mature workers suffer “brain drain”:

  • Older workers who feel unappreciated will drag down productivity and create negative morale and generational conflicts.
  • Mature workers have lived a “history” with your company or at least have a long involvement with the industry. While younger workers bring new knowledge, that’s not enough to create the sense of belonging that history brings.  
  • Long-standing employees have built valuable relationships with customers. Lose these older workers, and a company also loses customer connectivity.
  • Diverse teams thrive. Take away the voices of older workers and expect less creativity and innovation from work teams.

The sabbatical – time out to refurbish – is an integral piece of the new work-life design for mature workers, who could work for years to come and are an enormous source of knowledge and productivity for businesses.
For more information on sabbatical programs, please visit