We all have anxieties about time and getting older. It’s been a weird transition to go from the youngest person in the office to nearing mid-career. And I know these shifts will continue to happen. The way you perceive these changes and your future in the workplace is critical for your well-being and your performance. Today, we share some interesting research on a concept called Occupational Future Time Perspective (OFTP) and what it means for you!
What is Occupational Future Time Perspective?
Occupational Future Time Perspective (OFTP) is defined as a person’s perceptions of their future in the workplace. It’s made up of 2 parts – perceived remaining time and focus on opportunities. Perceived remaining time is the amount of time someone believes they have left in employment. Focus on opportunities is a person’s perceptions of new job opportunities, work goals, or future possibilities.
So, what does all of that mean? Basically, a person with high OFTP believes there is future for their career. They feel like they still have a good amount of time left before retirement. They see new projects, adventures, or promotions to pursue in the future. People with low OFTP are counting down the days to retirement. They don’t think they have a lot of time left in the workplace. They also don’t see any opportunities for them anymore at work.
How you feel about your future time at work has a big impact on you. A recent meta-analysis showed the impact of OFTP on a number of important outcomes. High OFTP is linked to:
- increased job satisfaction and work engagement,
- lower emotional exhaustion, and
- higher performance.
Super interesting, right? Believing in your future at work is important. And it makes a lot of intuitive sense. If you believe you have a future, you will be more engaged in your job than if you are expecting to leave soon. If you see cool opportunities in your future, your work won’t feel as emotionally draining. And, if you see that future career growth, you will work to perform well on the job.
How Can You Improve Your Perspective?
Now that we know OFTP is important, what can you do about it? First, it’s important to know that low OFTP is related to age and tenure in a job and company. However, this doesn’t mean you are doomed if you are older or in your job for a long time! We often forget that age is just a number. Same goes for years at a company! While it’s pretty obvious that a 50 year old and a 20 year old have different amounts of time left in the workplace, that doesn’t mean one is more likely to have higher OFTP than the other. Take a look at your career path and think about the things you want to accomplish. Setting goals, seeking out new opportunities, and looking for ways to engage at work will keep your OFTP high regardless of age or tenure!
Health and Future Time
Second, your health matters for OFTP. The healthier you are, the younger you feel, the more likely you are to think about future time in a positive manner. People who don’t feel healthy also don’t see themselves staying at work for a long time. While you can’t control everything in terms of your health, some healthy practices help! We know that eating healthily and staying active are important. Go to the doctor, do your best to stay healthy, and help keep your OFTP high. (Plus, we know it impacts a lot of other things with your well-being so do this regardless of work!)
Job Complexity and Autonomy
Finally, your job matters! Having a complex and autonomous job is critical for high OFTP. We’ve talked about this many times before but having control in your job is important for so much tied to your wellness and performance. OFTP is just another benefit of that control. Same goes for job complexity. Having a complex and interesting job (vs. repetitive and simple) is important for things like job satisfaction, engagement AND OFTP! If you are feeling bored at work and micro-managed, why would you want to stay around? You don’t want to see a future in that type of job so the connection here makes a lot of intuitive sense. So, if you can, go out and try to find that amazing, complex, and flexible job of your dreams to keep you motivated through all stages of your life!
Responsibility of Employers
The final thought I wanted to share was around the importance of employers in all of this. If you can influence your leaders or are a leader yourself, you should encourage them to think about Occupational Future Time Perspective. It can be incredibly easy to lose focus on older workers, for example. But companies lose a lot of great knowledge, skills, and experience if they allow older employees to stop seeing a future in the workplace. Companies need to focus on showing everyone their future possibilities within the workplace, helping employees manage their health, and creating interesting, complex, and autonomous jobs. Don’t let your employees lose sight of that future!
Now, we’d love to hear from you! Have you thought a lot about your future time at work? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.