By: Keaton Fletcher
Research Hole: Workers Caring for Elders
Work Science Center Network Member Boris Baltes teamed up with four other researches to put out a plea: help fill the knowledge gap about workers caring for elders. These five scientists dedicated a year to soliciting original research about employees providing eldercare. As a result, they received thirteen papers, six of which they featured in a special issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology.
The collaborators cite the “seismic shifts” coming to the demographic of the American workforce. They note that by 2030, one out of five adults in the US will be age 65 or older. Even in the current state of the US workforce, the same proportion of employees, one out of five, report that they’re currently providing care for an elderly person. Despite the potentially large effects that eldercare can have on an employee’s worklife, the researchers realized that organizations have not engaged mechanisms to accommodate the increasingly common. Nor have I-O psychologists.
The introduction to the issue defines eldercare as a person informally provides care for a needy senior without compensation or acquiring the specific skills to do so. This emotionally and physically taxing work often arises when a family member needs care. One of the papers submitted suggests creating a spectrum of care to enable researchers to examine more closely the different sub-groups of care recipients and the corresponding effects on workers.
Again, while the researchers imagine an outsize influence that eldercare may have on workers, the extant I-O literature remains quiet. The article ends by speculating the potential benefits of eldercare. They propose it could help with work-family enrichment, enhance worker mood, and so forth. These ideas remain pure conjecture, though. In sum, the dearth of research on eldercare and work offers a huge opportunity for I-O psychologists looking to make an important contribution to the field.
Griggs, T.L., Lance, C.E., Thrasher, G. et al. Eldercare and the Psychology of Work Behavior
in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Business Psychology (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-019-09630-1