Are there differences in workplace accommodation needs, use and unmet needs among older workers with arthritis, diabetes and no chronic conditions? Examining the role of health and work context
Abstract: The aging of workforces combined with the prevalence of age-related chronic diseases has generated interest in whether large numbers of older workers will need workplace accommodations. This research applied work functioning theory to examine accommodation availability, need and use in workers with arthritis, diabetes, or no chronic disabling diseases; factors associated with accommodation needs; and the relationship of accommodation needs met, unmet or exceeded to job outcomes. Participants were aged 50-67 years, employed, and had arthritis (n = 631), diabetes (n = 286), both arthritis/diabetes (n = 111) or no chronic disabling conditions (healthy controls n = 538). They were recruited from a national panel of 80,000 individuals and a cross-sectional survey was administered online or by telephone. Questionnaires assessed demographics, health, work context, workplace accommodations, and job outcomes. Chi-square analyses, analyses of variance, and regression analyses compared groups. Respondents were similar in many demographic and work context factors. As expected, workers with arthritis and/or diabetes often reported poorer health and employment outcomes. Yet, there were few differences across health conditions in need for or use of accommodations with most participants reporting accommodations needs met. In keeping with work functioning theory, unmet accommodation needs were largely related to work context, not health. Workers whose accommodation needs were exceeded reported better job outcomes than those with accommodation needs met. Findings highlight both work context and health in understanding workplace accommodations and suggest that many older workers can meet accommodation needs with existing workplace practices. However, additional research aimed at workplace support and the timing of accommodation use is needed.