RESOURCES FOR PROFESSIONALS
WHAT IS WORK DESIGN?
Work design refers to the nature and organisation of individuals' and teams' tasks, responsibilities, activities, and decisions.
It encompasses cognitive, physical, biomechanical, and psychological characteristics of work (see Figure opposite). Here are some example work design questions one might raise:
Cognitive - How cognitively challenging is the work? How boring is the work? How much complex information processing is required?
Physical - What physical hazards are staff exposed to? Are the physical demands manageable by all workers, including mature staff?
Bio-mechanical - Is the individual repetitively using the same muscle groups over and over? How much sitting is there in the job?
Psycho-social - Does the job offer the incumbent autonomy? Do staff use a variety of skills? Is the level of time pressure reasonable?
In the Centre for Transformative Work Design, we mostly focus on psychosocial aspects of work, although all the elements are often inter-related.
WHY DOES WORK DESIGN MATTER?
The way that jobs are designed can have a profound impact on employees, including their:
Mental health and well-being (for example, jobs with excessive work load result in anxiety and problems sleeping)
Creativity, proactivity and innovation (for example, many studies show that having autonomy in work is important for all of these outcomes)
Meaningfulness and motivation (for example, when individuals perceive that their work makes a difference to the lives of others, they experience a sense of meaningfulness)
Safety (for example, a lack of role clarity can increase accidents)
Performance (for example, good work design promotes feelings of engagement, which mean people will put more effort into their work).
Good work design not only affects individuals, but also teams and organisations.
WHAT ARE THE SAFEWORK GOOD
WORK DESIGN PRINCIPLES?
A great deal of evidence has identified what constitutes a "good work design" for most people and most situations. This evidence was recently summarised and synthesised by Safework Australia into ten good work design principles. These principles have been endorsed by a large number of parties. They include:
Why: Why work design matters (3 principles)
What: What constitutes good work design (3 principles)
How: How to achieve and implement good work design (3 principles)
As part of Safework Australia's Virtual Seminar Series, Professor Sharon Parker gave a presentation in Canberra about the principles that you can view.
HOW CAN ONE ASSESS WORK DESIGN?
There are many ways to measure work design, including:
Observing people whilst they carry out the work
Interviewing workers about their work design
Administering psychometrically-validated measures of work design
The quality of work design can also be sometimes hinted out from analysis of 'outcome' data.
For example, if turnover is very high in an organisation, or levels of absence are way about industry norms, this could indicate problems with work design. Likewise, if customer complaints are higher than average, or performance is low, it would be important to investigate if poor work design is an underlying cause.
If you are interested in measuring work design in your organisation, please contact us.
FUTURE WORK AND IMPLICATIONS FOR
JOB QUALITY AND EMPLOYEE SKILL
In this presentation, Professor Sharon Parker explores the opportunities and risks associated with new work technologies and highlighted the importance of good work design to adapt work and technology to humans.