Gwenith G. Fisher, PhD, Colorado State University Joshua Prasad, PhD, Colorado State University Alyssa McGonagle, PhD, University of North Carolina – Charlotte Lorann Stallones, PhD, Colorado State University John Rosecrance, PhD, Colorado State University

The purpose of this research is to investigate the relationship between telework, work ability and well-being among workers with chronic health conditions (CHCs). Three research questions are addressed: 1) How do telework-based work activities relate to work ability and well-being of workers with CHCs? 2) Do job control and flexibility mediate the relationship between telework activities and work ability and well-being among workers with CHCs? and 3) Does the relationship between telework activities, work ability, and well-being change when employees work more hours via telework?

CHCs are ?physical or mental health conditions that last more than one year and cause functional restrictions and/or require ongoing management or treatment? (Raghupathi & Raghupathi, 2018, p. 1) and affect at least 60% of workers in the U.S. (Buttorff, Ruder, & Bauman, 2017). CHCs present challenges to employers (i.e., healthcare costs and lost productivity; Asay et al., 2016), with associated costs as high as $635 billion per year (Gaskin & Richard, 2012). Among workers, one of the most common challenges is maintaining one?s work ability, or job-related functional capacity. Work ability is imperative for an individual?s overall wellbeing as well as their likelihood to remain active in the workforce (McGonagle et al., 2015; von Bordsoff et al. 2011). To promote and maintain one?s work ability, scholars endorse work factors such as job control and flexibility (Beatty, 2012; Issa et al., 2012). Telework has been promoted as a practice to increase flexibility and job control for workers with CHCs; however, these recommendations remain broad and less is known about the use of telework as a flexible arrangement and/or accommodation practice for workers with CHCs. There may be task-specific barriers to the effective use of telework (Linden & Milchus, 2014). Thus, this study is necessary in order to extend both the science and practice of telework as a flexible work arrangement, and more specifically, which work activities best promote the effective use of telework for workers managing CHCs.

The current study uses experience sampling methodology to collect real-time assessments of participant?s experiences. Participants who were at least 18 years-of-age, working at least 20 hours a week, teleworked at least 8 hours a week, and managing one or more CHCs were recruited through various online forums related to chronic illness. Participants included in the study completed two surveys a day including measures related to the variables of interest, for up to ten business days as determined by their work schedule. Data collection was completed at the end of May 2021, and data analyses are in progress and will be completed by July, 2021.

We will test hypotheses using a multilevel path analytic model estimated using the Dynamic Structural Equation Modelling (DSEM) approach using Mplus version 8.3 (Muth?n & Muth?n, 2017). Within the hypothesized model, telework activities will be specified as predicting perceived job control and flexibility. Perceived job control and flexibility will, in turn, predict work ability and wellbeing. Direct paths of telework activities predicting work ability and wellbeing will be included as well. We expect that there will be higher reports of work ability and wellbeing on days when workers are engaged in work tasks that allow for increased flexibility and job control. For example, workers engaging in data entry for a great extent of their workday may be more likely to draw on the flexible nature of telework to attend to their CHC(s), versus those who are engaged in interacting via video communication. Furthermore, we expect there to be a positive relationship between the number of hours teleworked, work ability, and wellbeing but will also test for nonlinear associations.

The implications of the proposed study are multi-faceted. Regardless of findings, results will further clarify the relationship between telework and psychological health outcomes. Additionally, results will be among the first investigating the psychological impacts of telework for individuals with CHCs. This research will also provide clarification for practitioners and organizations considering using telework programs as an accommodation practice, and how telework programs might affect workers managing CHCs in the changing world of work.

This study will shed light on the relationship between telework and worker health and well-being, as well as provide empirical evidence regarding the extent to which telework is a beneficial practice for workers with CHCs. Considering the increase in telework over the past decade, as well as the acute telework increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to understand how telework is associated with the work ability and well-being of individuals with health concerns.

Tags: Comprehensive Approaches to Healthy Work Design and Well-Being, Diversity and Inclusion in a Changing Workforce, Empirical study, Individual Factors / Differences, Job and Task Design, Non-Standard Employment Arrangements, Organization- and Job-Level Environments and Practices, Submission does not consider occupation or industry, Total Worker Health, Work Scheduling and Flexibility, Workplace Diversity and Health Disparities