Work Context Factors

Work Context Characteristics of Jobs

Work context factors are a final category of job dimensions. They relate to the work context, primarily the forms that determine the job’s physical boundaries (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006).

In this entry, we review four contextual characteristics of jobs below.

1.   Ergonomics

Ergonomics reflects the degree to which a job allows correct or appropriate posture and movement. The importance of this aspect of work design can be found in the extensive ergonomics literature as well as job design research (Campion & Thayer, 1985).

For older workers, ergonomics concerns are very important. This is because ergonomics are not only related to the physical comfort workers experience at work, but also serve as protective factors for one’s physical health.

Research has shown that people experience decline in muscle-skeleton functions and are less efficient in recovering from physical injuries. As such, it is critical for older workers to pay attention to the ergonomic features in their job to avoid loss of productivity due to injury or chronic diseases.

2.   Physical Demands

Physical demands reflect the level of physical activity or effort required in the job. Specifically, we focus on the physical strength, endurance, effort, and activity aspects of the job.

These aspects of the job all impose physical stress on one’s body. Therefore, older workers have to pay special attention on these job aspects to assess whether their physical conditions can meet the requirement of these physical demands.

Further, the physical demands carried by a job also have implications for the need of a comprehensive health care package.

For older workers, such health insurance related concern is more salient, because the adverse health effect induced by these physical demands may not surface right away, but rather through accumulation of physical stress.

3.   Work Conditions

Work conditions reflect the physical environment within which a job is performed. It includes the presence of appropriate temperature, low health hazards, lack of excessive noise, and cleanliness of the working environment (Edwards et al., 1999).

It is obvious that if these work conditions are outside of the safety boundaries, older workers are more likely to be vulnerable to the adverse effects than younger workers.

4.   Equipment Use

Equipment use reflects the degree to which the job requires the use of different types of equipment.

Poor conditions in terms of work context factors should be associated with decreased outcomes for all workers, but because of the physical declines associated with age (e.g., Avolio & Waldman, 1994; Shephard, 1999).

We anticipate that these poor conditions in terms of work context factors will be less easily tolerated by older workers, leading to decrements in job satisfaction and wellbeing and increased stress.