Eldercare and Workers

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. 

Work Cited

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

Network Research Highlight: Outcomes of Negative Age Stereotypes

By: Keaton Fletcher

Meta-stereotypes are those that we think other people hold against a group. So an age meta-stereotype is what you think other people think about your age group. These stereotypes can be positive or negative. Work Science Center Network Member, Lisa Finkelstein, led a team of researchers, including fellow WSC Network Member, Hannes Zacher, in a study of how these age meta-stereotypes might lead to outcomes like conflict, avoidance, or work engagement. The researchers asked 185 U.S. employees to complete surveys every day for five consecutive work days. When people held negative old (but not young) age meta-stereotypes they felt higher levels of a motivating type of stress, called challenge reactions (i.e., you feel like this is a stressor you can overcome). In other words, when people felt as though others thought their age group held the negative stereotypical qualities of older adults (e.g., technophobic, slow, narrow minded), regardless of their actual age, they viewed that as a challenge that was stressful but could be overcome. When people held negative young (but not old) age meta-stereotypes the felt higher levels of a de-motivating type of stress, called threat reactions (i.e., you feel like this cannot be overcome and can harm your self-identity). In other words, when people felt that others thought their age group held negative stereotypically young traits (e.g., inexperienced, lazy, immature), regardless of their actual age, they viewed that as a threat to their core identity. Positive age meta-stereotypes had no effects.

When people had higher challenge or threat reactions, they were more likely to engage in conflict at work and were also more likely to avoid interacting with others at work. When people had high levels of challenge reactions or low levels of threat reactions, they were more likely to feel engaged with their work. Interestingly, people who are high in a set of traits called core self-evaluations (i.e., self-esteem, self-efficacy, emotional stability, sense of control) they were less likely to respond to negative old age meta-stereotypes with challenge reactions.

Taken together these results offer an interesting narrative about individuals’ perceptions of others’ stereotypes. Specifically, individuals who feel as though others hold a negative view of their age group that is similar to stereotypical older workers, they view that as a challenge and are more likely to engage in conflict, avoid interacting with others, but also to feel more engaged at work. This is less the case, however, for those workers who hold themselves in high regard. Workers who feel as if others view their age group in a way that is similar to the negative stereotypes of younger workers, are more likely to view this as a threat and are thus also more likely to engage in conflict and avoid interactions with others, but do not see the positive boost in work engagement. It is also worth noting that when individuals thought others had positive views about their age group that were similar to positive stereotypes about older or younger workers, that had no effect on their reactions or behavioral outcomes. Further, younger workers were more likely to feel that others held negative views of their age group than older workers, and this includes both negative stereotypically old and stereotypically young traits. Companies should therefore take steps to reduce negative stereotypes, particularly of younger workers, or provide resources to individuals to combat the negative outcomes of feeling as if others have a negative view of them.

Building a Bridge from Fulltime Work to Retirement

By: Riley Swab

Although older workers contribute valuable ideas, knowledge, and experience to the workforce, these can often be overshadowed by their potential loss in innovative ideas and physical abilities (Zacher, Kooij, & Beier, 2018). A solution to this cost-benefit analysis may be bridge employment, which is a type of partial retirement taken between fulltime work and full retirement (Beehr, & Bennett, 2014). Bridge employment is similar to short-term work, with the hours being more flexible than part-time employment, but the end goal being full retirement in a relatively short amount of time. Bridge employment allows the workforce to take advantage of older workers’ benefits, while limiting the amount of time their disadvantages would negatively impact their working ability.

One benefit to bridge employment is that it offers older workers the chance to focus on mentoring younger workers, leveraging their increased experience and knowledge to help the workforce (Beehr, & Bennett, 2014). This also allows older workers to leave a tangible legacy behind. This mentorship keeps the older workers connected to the workforce even once they pass into full retirement, as it fosters an active interpersonal connection through the mentee.

Bridge employment also offers security in older workers’ identity. Beehr and Bennett (2014) found that an older worker’s occupation tends to be a source of identity or status, which is often lost during retirement or the later days of working. Bridge employment allows these older workers to ease into retirement by giving them time to find other sources of identity. Without bridge employment, many retired workers find themselves suddenly with no workplace or job to accomplish, causing them to quickly reevaluate their identity or status. Bridge employment, however, gives more time towards this transition, changing it from a rapid or sudden transition to a gradual transition.

Furthermore, bridge employment allows older workers who have not saved enough for retirement to supplement their retirement funds without committing to the hours of full-time employment (Beehr & Bennett, 2014). Increased retirement age is becoming increasingly more common as workers are forced to remain in the workforce because of a lack of money. This pressing need for money often overshadows the potential drawbacks of continuing to work full time as an older work (Beehr & Bennett, 2014). Bridge employment, however, allows older workers to continue making money without committing to the hours of full-time employment.

Bridge employment may be a viable option for encouraging active aging in the workforce by providing older workers the benefit of continued job satisfaction. Older workers’ identity or status is also often helped through bridge employment by providing them a more gradual transition out of the workforce, as opposed to going straight from full employment to full retirement. Bridge employment also benefits younger workers by providing them mentors with knowledge and experience. Although current studies have researched the reasoning behind bridge employment, the outcome of bridge employment is still an area that needs to be better researched.


Beehr, T. A., & Bennett, M.M, 2014. Working After Retirement: Features of Bridge Employment and Research Directions. Work, Aging and Retirement, 1(1), 112-128. http://doi.org/10.1093/workar/wau007

Zacher, H., Koiij, D.T.A.M., & Beier, M.E. (2018). Active aging at work: Contributing factors and implications for organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 47(1), 37-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2017.08.001

Millennial cyberloafing: Why it’s costly & how to approach the problem

By: Jacqueline Jung

With access to technology and the internet nearly ubiquitous in the modern workforce, organizations are struggling with a relatively new phenomenon: cyberloafing. Cyberloafing is the use of technology at work for non-work-related purposes (e.g., checking social media, watching YouTube videos). Cyberloafing may reduce productivity and has been estimated to cost U.S. organizations $85 billion annually (Zakrzewski, 2016). On the other hand, employees born between 1981 and 1995 (i.e., Millenials), grew up with the internet and constant access to technology, and may, to some extent, expect to have this continued liberty at work. The question then remains: how can organizations mitigate the negative effects of cyberloafing while still attracting and retaining millennials, who will soon make up the majority of the U.S. workforce?

For millennials, technology may be viewed as inseparable from communication and entertainment; texting is the standard mode of communication, and sporting events, music, and games can all be accessed through a smartphone (PEW Research, 2009). Millennials also prefer to use the internet to learn new information, more so than their colleagues from previous generations who prefer traditional, structured training (Prosperio & Gioia, 2007). Millennials also do not hold the same work values as other generations–they view work as less important to their identity and place a stronger priority on leisure and work-life balance compared to previous generations (Twenge, Campbell, Hoffman & Lance, 2010). Taken together, this suggests that addressing cyberloafing may be particularly challenging when considering Millennial employees.

Two opposing organizational approaches toward cyberloafing organizations are deterrence and laissez-faire. Deterrence policies limit technology use through stringent monitoring and surveillance, while laissez-faire policies encourage little to no interference or surveillance from the company. 66% of firms claim to monitor Internet use at work (American Management Association, 2008), and while regulation may increase productivity, too much can be counterproductive (e.g., Henle, Kohut, Booth, 2009). Deterrence strategies, such as stringent technology use policies may lead to millennials’ erosion of trust in the organization because surveillance is viewed as an indication of distrust, and millennials view technology as a right that should not be blocked (Coker, 2013). Strict monitoring may also be seen as an encroachment upon Millennials’ desire for work-life balance. Therefore, a zero tolerance for personal technology use may make it difficult to attract Millennials to an organization and may increase turnover intentions among Millenials within the organization (e.g., Henle et al., 2009).

A laissez-faire approach, on the other hand, leaves employees susceptible to the myriad of negative outcomes of technological distractions. Henle and colleagues (2009) suggest that technology may reduce individuals’ attention toward their tasks, and cyberloafing may reduce the amount of time individuals have to complete their tasks, thereby increasing employee stress. Ultimately, employees’ unrestricted access to personal technology use may lead to a decline in organizational performance (Raisch, 2009).

There are viable solutions, however. For example, organizations can establish a clear technology use policy and train millennials as well as their managers on both the benefits and drawbacks of personal technology use at work. When seeking to create this policy, organizations should form an internal committee that includes employees in order to reach an agreed-upon and mutually beneficial stance. This may reduce the likelihood that employees will react negatively to the final policy, since they were a part of its creation (Corgnet, Hernan-Gonzalez & McCarter, 2015). Finally, organizations must provide relevant training on policies and best practices to both employees and managers to ensure standardization and compliance.


Coker, B. (2013). Workplace internet leisure browsing. Human Performance, 26(2), 114-125.

Corgnet, B., Hernan-Gonzalez R., & McCarter, M. W. (2015). The role of decision-making regime on cooperation in a workgroup social dilemma: An examination of cyberloafing. Games, 6, 588-603.

“Generations Online in 2009.” Pew Research Center, Washington D.C. (January 28, 2009). http://www.pewinternet.org/2009/01/28/generations-online-in-2009/.

Kim, S. (2018). Managing millennials’ personal use of technology at work. Business Horizons, 61(2), 261-270.

Proserpio, L. & Gioia, D. (2007). Teaching the virtual generation. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 69-80.

Raisch, S. (2009). Organizational ambidexterity: Balancing exploitation and exploration for sustained performance. Organization Science, 20(4), 685-695.

Twenge, J., Campbell, S., Hoffman, B., & Lance, C. (2010). Generational differences in work values: Leisure and extrinsic values increasing, social and intrinsic values decreasing. Journal of Management, 36(5), 1117-1142.

Zakrzewski, J. L. (2016). Using iPads to your advantage. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 21(8), 480-483.

Network Research Highlight: Leveraging the Benefits of an Aging Workforce

By: Riley Swab

Rising populations coupled with increased life expectancies have left industrialized nations to deal with a new issue in the workforce. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that by 2035 people over the age of 65 will outnumber children under age 18. As more people live to older ages, they are expecting to work longer before retirement. According to the United States Department of Labor, since 1990 the amount of people over the age of 55 who are working has increased over 10 percent. In response to workers’ increased age, companies must now focus on how to best utilize the unique strengths and the needs of an aging workforce. Companies are vested in ensuring that their employees age optimally, both for the company and the worker’s benefit. With the age of retirement increasing, active aging is becoming more crucial in the context of work as people spend more time working.

According to the World Health Organization, active aging is “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age” (Zacher, Kooij, & Beier, 2018). This optimization requires the efforts of both the aging individual worker and the company who employs the worker. The individual worker seeks to maximize their experience in the workforce as they age and become a senior worker. Meanwhile, the company must actively adapt to the factors that both predict older workers’ success and help them succeed in the workforce. According to a study on active aging in the workforce, a balance of losses and gains is the key to successful active aging. As age increases, physical abilities decline, while accumulated knowledge increases. If a company can successfully leverage these inherent strengths and weaknesses, then they can both boost senior workers’ experiences and the productivity of their workplace. When companies successfully accomplished this balance of losses and gains, workers reported higher job satisfaction. Conversely, when companies required older workers to do physically exerting tasks, focusing on their weaknesses, older workers experienced a decline in job satisfaction and discrimination (Zacher, Kooij, & Beier, 2018).

Successful balancing of declining physical abilities with increasing knowledge and experience leads to higher reports of job satisfaction among older workers, in addition to increasing areas in which older workers can benefit the workforce (Zacher, Kooij, & Bejer, 2018). Acknowledgment of this balance is crucial to the fostering of an inclusive and cohesive workforce.

Overall, this study indicated that increased workers’ age provides significant advantages when companies leverage them well. In a society where discrimination based on age is a socially normalized prejudice, acknowledging the benefits of older workers will require an overall mindset shift. Instead of simply allowing older workers the opportunity to work or trying to manage workers’ aging process, organizations should embrace a perspective that values the accumulated experience and knowledge that comes with age, thereby maximizing both the workers’ and organizations’ outcomes.


United States Department of Labor (2018, October 20). BLS Data Viewer. Retrieved from https://beta.bls.gov/dataViewer/view/timeseries/LNS11324230

Vespa, J. (2018, March 13). The U.S. Joins Other Countries With Large Aging Populations [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2018/03/graying-america.html

World Health Organization. (2018). Ageing and life-course. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ageing/ageism/en/

Zacher, H., Koiij, D.T.A.M., & Beier, M.E. (2018). Active aging at work: Contributing factors and implications for organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 47(1), 37-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2017.08.001

Nudging Retirement Savings Among Older Workers

By: Brian Hengesbaugh

It is never too late to save for retirement. With the Baby Boomer generation rapidly approaching retirement age, it is imperative to promote healthy retirement planning.

Although we know that saving for retirement is important, voluntary retirement savings plans are often underutilized. Changing saving habits can be challenging – especially among older employees. Standard interventions that aim to increase retirement savings often focus on the importance of being able to compound the value of savings over many years. This type of intervention often leaves older employees with diminished motivation to increase saving for retirement due to the limited number of years they have remaining to contribute to their savings plan. Older workers may also be harder to influence with interventions because they have had comparatively more opportunities to develop and adhere to personal retirement savings strategies. 

A recent study conducted by a research team at North Carolina State University explored an inexpensive way to nudge older employees to prepare for retirement. The research team developed an informational nudge that highlighted the importance of increased retirement savings specifically for older workers. This nudge was an email sent to older public sector workers that provided information regarding increased either liquidity, catch-up provisions, tax advantages, longevity risks, and increased maximum contribution limits for older workers. The email also included a link to the website for the supplemental retirement plan.

The experiment found that, as a result of a nudge, there was a statistically significant increase in supplemental retirement plan contributions among older workers who were already participating in a supplemental retirement savings plan. Additionally, those that received a nudge reported they were more likely to have a retirement plan and feel more confident with their retirement preparedness. The effect of a nudge was limited to individuals who were already participating in a supplemental retirement savings plan and did not influence older workers to begin making voluntary retirement savings contributions. 

What did this experiment show us?
(1)    Low-cost informational nudges in the form of emails targeted to older individuals who are already saving for retirement are shown to be a valid intervention to improve retirement income security.
(2)    There are different situational factors and lived experiences that frame the decisions of older workers. These situational factors and experiences must be taken into consideration as we seek to improve economic stability for workers of all ages.