Work As a Form of Community: Workplace-Based Social Networks, Engagement, and the Psychological Well-Being of Older Adults
Methods: Using cross-sectional data from the 2010 Life & Times in an Aging Society Study, we test the extent to which work-community engagement (defined as a psychological connection with work, characterized by a high degree of interest, focus, and energy) mediates the impact of workplace-based social networks on subjective well-being among a sample of 330 adults age 50 to 83.
Findings: Findings reveal that the size and quality of one’s work-based social network has a direct effect on the psychological well-being of the older adults in this sample and that one’s sense of engagement within that community fully mediated that effect. These findings suggest that the positive effect of one’s workplace-based social network (seen here as an indicator of community) on psychological well-being operates through the network’s effect on one’s overall experience of engagement.
Conclusions and Implications: These analyses have several implications for practice settings with older adults. Analyses suggest that building community at work matters with regard to the extent to which older adults become personally engaged, and in turn, their overall psychological well-being. Those working with older adult populations should make an effort to ensure that their work environments are providing the types of resources that are needed to fully engage. For example, social workers may be in positions to design work or volunteer opportunities in which older adults might participate. In doing so, attention should be paid to creating environments that are challenging, yet provide ample resources, including autonomy, task significance, social support, and continued learning and growth, as these role design features have been found to relate positively to work-community engagement.
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