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New Publication on Younger and Older Workers' Responses to Work Design: Goldilocks Work Conditions for all Ages

Published: 16-06-2022

Elissa El Khawli, together with Anita Keller and Susanne Scheibe, have published a new research article coming out of Elissa's PhD project. In two studies, the research team investigated job profiles and well-being. They identified three job profiles: some people have jobs that are motivating (most favorable), others work in jobs that we termed moderately stimulating, and others work in socially taxing jobs (least favorable). In two studies the team discovered that older employees more often have favorable jobs and also respond to these jobs more positively than younger employees. Younger employees, in turn, are more likely to have unfavorable jobs but they are also more tolerant of such jobs.

The article was published open-access and can be found here.



Work design plays an important role in workers’ job-related well-being, but not every employee responds to work design in the same way. Given trends toward longer working lives and higher age diversity in the workforce, worker age is an important factor to consider. However, knowledge about the interplay between worker age and work design is limited, especially when considering the multitude of job characteristics that people experience at the same time. Integrating the work design and lifespan/career development literatures and adopting a person-centered approach, we investigated how worker age affects membership in work design profiles and the relationship between work design profiles and occupational well-being. Using two independent samples (N = 989; 980), we conducted latent profile analysis to group workers into work design profiles based on 6 age-relevant job characteristics (autonomy, information-processing, workload, social support, emotional demands, and social conflicts). We identified 3 profiles and linked them to well-being: motivating (most favorable), moderately stimulating, and socially taxing (least favorable). Older workers were more likely to be in, and responded better to motivating work design profiles, and less likely to be in, and responded worse to socially taxing profiles. Meanwhile, younger workers seemed more tolerant of socially taxing work design profiles than older workers. Most age-contingent effects were robust after adding organizational tenure as a covariate. Findings qualify lifespan development theories and shed light on workers’ nuanced responses to work design profiles.