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Designing work for diversity

An important principle of well-designed work (see Safe Work Australia's principles of good work design) is that the work should "fit" the worker or workers. This means that, contrary to the idea of a one-size-fits-all approach to work design, roles and responsibilities should be adapted to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. Accommodating the diverse needs of people is not only a legal expectation, but is important for attracting and retaining talent, and hence makes good business sense.

I presented on this topic, focusing especially on how work might be redesigned to attract and retain mature workers, to an international audience at the XX1 World Congress on Safety & Health at Work in Singapore this weekend.

The symposium was organised by Michelle Baxter, CEO of Safe Work Australia. Michelle moderated the session, along side Kala Anandarajah from the Workplace Safety and Health Council in Singapore. Speakers included researchers from Italy, Malaysia, Bulgaria, and Perth, and the topics included the health and safety implications of women in the workplace, migrants, and international students.

In my presentation, I outlined the way that ageing can affect people physically, biomechanically, cognitively, and in terms of attitudes and personality. Given the challenges ahead of population ageing, we need to start adjusting work to better cater for the needs of mature workers if we want to maximise their likelihood of them staying in work, and being safe, healthy & productive at the same time.

This topic will be the focus of a new program of research, Mature Workers in Organisations, that I will soon be leading as part of the Centre for Population Ageing Research (CEPAR, Please contact me if your organisation has any interest in participating in this research.

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