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Older workers struggle with tech: myth busted


The belief that older workers struggle more with technology than their younger colleagues has been debunked by the result of a Dropbox survey look at tech usage and adoption in the workplace.

The survey had participation from 202 IT decision makers and 500 information workers, defined as someone who uses mobile computing and/or a desktop computer or computer at their office/place of work.

It revealed workers aged 55 and over used more tech devices (5.4) than the total average (5), and experienced fewer tech-related problems and far lower levels of tech-induced stress than their Gen X and Gen Y colleagues.

Prevailing misconceptions could lead to discrimination

According to Dropbox managing director (ANZ) Charlie Wood said the survey results redress some prevailing misconceptions about age and technology. His concern is that 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 said.

“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.

Attitude, not age, influences tech adoption 

Another finding from the survey was that 45% of all respondents believe older workers are slower to adopt new technology than their younger colleagues, with 57% of 18 to 35 year olds holding this view.

Countering this, only 17% of respondents aged 55 and over reported having problems with tech compared to 33% of 18 to 35 year olds. Additionally, only 16% of the 55+ age group find their experience of using technology at work stressful, compared with 35% of 18 to 35 year olds.

Rather than focusing on factors such as age, Wood said it is more useful for businesses 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.

“In the 21st century it is refreshing to know that it is not how old you are, what sector you are in or how senior you are which governs how productive, creative or happy you can be at work; it is the technology you have access to and attitudes towards flexible, collaborative working which determine these matters,” Wood said.