Network Research Highlight: The Future of the Psychology of Working

By: Elizabeth Moraff

Work Science Center advisory council member David Blustein recently published a paper detailing the Psychology of Working Framework (PWF) and its corresponding theory, Psychology of Working Theory (PWT). These intertwined concepts identify the fundamental needs that work fulfills for humans, such as economic survival, social connections, and self-determination (Blustein, Kenny, Di Fabio, & Guichard 2019). The framework goes beyond the individual worker to scrutinize contextual factors of work as well. For instance, PWF posits that social identities and politics may affect a worker’s access to various types of work, and assumes that work occupies a psychological space that overlaps with other life domains (Blustein et. al 2019). In broadening the vision of work’s scope, the authors argue that PWF has contributed to work psychology by expanding its research obligation to workers who have limited ability to choose the type of work they do and who have limited access to work overall. After establishing the contours of PWF and PWT, the paper explores decent work, or work that contains empowerment, protection for the worker, equity, and provision for a dignified life for its workers. Particularly, the paper synthesizes various factors that affect the availability of decent work worldwide into suggestions for future research in I-O Psychology.

The authors suggest that with the rise of contract employees, the lingering effects of the worldwide great recession, and the exacerbation of inequality worldwide as contributors to the diminishing of decent work. Additionally, they argue the rise of automation via new technology will further decrease access to decent work. In the midst of these challenges, Blustein intersperses findings on how decent work positively affects the worker. He notes that the best antidote to the psychological stress of unemployment tends to be a new job (Paul & Moser 2009). Similarly, the paper notes that decent work makes workers feel more alive by satisfying the drive to accomplish tasks. Throughout, the paper notes how I-O psychology findings support the PWF.

The paper closes with four proposed research directions: testing economic and social protections embedded in the workplace, researching the balance of care work and market work, examining efforts to make the workplace more equitable, and identifying strategies for enhancing individual capacities to land decent work (Blustein et. al 2019). The authors hope that such research would inform policy direction and specific actions in the workplace worldwide, and would leverage psychological research to benefit global workers in an ever-changing work landscape.

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