Work Across the Lifespan

Baby and Old Lady

Work is a topic and activity central to the adult experience. In early adulthood people typically focus on choosing an occupation and managing the school to work transition. During midlife, goals and concerns shift to improving the work experience, career development and managing periods of unemployment. With improved health in later years and uncertain economic conditions, more people are living longer and working longer.  For these workers major concerns pertain to when and how to disengage from formal work arrangements.

Workforce Entry

Graduation diploma
Young adults are beginning their careers later in life. 

Bridge Employment

Workers can delay retirement and stay in the workforce through bridge employment.

Post-Retirement Work

Road Signs
Thanks to healthcare improvements, more people are returning to work after retirement. 
Using a person-centric perspective, the Work Science Center seeks to encourage research examining the role of work histories, psychological, and contextual factors that affect employability, and the efficacy of interventions on job quality and the work experience. For example:
  1. What socio-cultural, occupational, and psychological factors promote later-age working life?
  2. How can organizations facilitate work-related life-long learning and employee engagement throughout careers?
  3. What is the relative efficacy of different cognitive-behavioral strategies to mitigate mental health issues and concerns during job search and unemployment?

Related Content

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    Personnel Psychology Call for Papers/Special Issue

    Personnel Psychology has a call for papers for their special issue, entitled "What’s Age got to do with it? Age and Age-Related Differences in the workplace." Special Issue Editors are all Work Science Center members: Margaret Beier, Rice University;  Ruth Kanfer, Georgia Institute of Technology;  Dorien Kooij Tilburg University:  Donald Truxillo, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick.

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    Eldercare and Workers

    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. 

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    WSC Network Member, Lisa Finkelstein, led a team of researchers, including fellow WSC Network Member, Hannes Zacher, in a study of how age meta-stereotypes might lead to outcomes like conflict, avoidance, or work engagement.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. 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.

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    Building a Bridge from Fulltime Work to Retirement

    Although older workers contribute valuable experience to the workforce, this can be overshadowed by the potential loss in innovative ideas and physical abilities. A solution may be bridge employment, which is a type of partial retirement taken between fulltime work and full retirement. 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.