High demand, high commitment work: What residential aged care staff actually do minute by minute: A participatory action study

Diane Gibson, Eileen Willis, Eamon Merrick, Bernice Redley, Kasia Bail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores staff work patterns in an Australian residential aged care facility and the implications for high-quality care. Rarely available minute by minute, time and motion, and ethnographic data demonstrate that nurses and care staff engage in high degrees of multitasking and mental switching between residents. Mental switching occurs up to 18 times per hour (every 3 min); multitasking occurs on average for 37 min/h. Labor process theory is used to examine these outcomes and to explore the concepts of high demand and high commitment as core components of work intensification. These conditions of work result in high levels of cognitive burden and stress on staff in managing the multitasking and mental switching, exacerbated by lack of knowledge about residents associated with labor force casualization. These new interpretations of data in relation to mental and manual labor can contribute to understanding, and, therefore, problem solving, in the aged care sector.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12545
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalNursing Inquiry
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Dec 2022

Cite this