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Highlights from the Design for Care State of Affairs Breakfast 3: Changing work design to improve mental health in the healthcare and social assistance industry

Updated: Jun 6


One in two Healthcare and Social Assistance (H&SA) employees with poor work design report experiencing burnout, with only 15% of care workers surveyed reported having good work design. In an industry rife with burnout and staff shortages, these statistics are alarming.


But poor work design isn’t inevitable - research shows work design interventions can be effective in aiding the redesign of existing work systems, roles and tasks to improve staff well-being and mental health.


Design for Care research team recently hosted its 3rd State of Affairs Breakfast, focusing on some of the key learnings, insights and success stories to emerge from 30 pilot work design interventions implemented in five NSW-based Health and Social Assistance (H&SA) organisations to date.


The breakfast kicked off with opening remarks from NSW Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Work Health and Safety the Hon Sophie Cotsis MP, emphasising the NSW Government's ongoing support for the first-of-its-kind of research.


The event continued with a keynote by Professor Anya Johnson and Professor Helena Nguyen from the University of Sydney, followed by a panel discussion featuring Imran Ayoubi (Key Assets NSW), Kanada Long (Whiddon), Sarla Singh and Wirda Cabucos (Bankstown City Aged Care) on their firsthand insights into co-creating SMARTer work at their organisations.


Here are the four main takeaways from the event:


1. Good work design is SMART work design


When employees have good work design, that is, SMARTer work, they are more likely to experience better well-being and mental health, higher productivity and engagement.


In brief, good work design is SMART work design. It is work that is Stimulating - so it gives people opportunities to use skills and to learn new skills. It gives opportunities to gain Mastery - this is about competence, clarity and feedback. It gives people Agency. also known as autonomy or control. It is Relationally rich, which means that there's a lot of social capital in that organisation as well as in the job, and that there is enough resources. It's where people can cope with the demand, so it's at least Tolerable. - Professor Helena Nguyen

2. Good solutions require a good diagnosis


To effectively redesign work, it's crucial to adopt a data-driven and evidence-based approach. Recognise that while many care organisations share common challenges, each organisation is unique. Therefore, a tailored approach to work redesign is more likely to yield positive results than a generic solution.


A key approach to the interventions is the PARRTH to SMART Work Design, which involves the co-creation of good work by collaborating directly with care workers to understand their experiences of work and opportunities for improvement in their work design.


To learn more about PARRTH to SMART Work Design and the key work redesign success factors that emerged from the Design for Care project, download our report 'Changing work design to improve mental health in the healthcare and social assistance industry' here.



3. Co-design localised work redesign solutions that work for the context


When employees have a say in shaping changes to their work, they're more likely to embrace them fully, as the solutions are tailored to their concerns.


Some of the interventions highlighted during the 'Redesign' phase of the PARRTH process included:

  • Reducing emotional demands through social support (Key Assets NSW)

We ran weekly Wellbeing Wednesdays where we provided a safe space for the team just to check in, talk about their day and what's going on for them. Another thing that we ran was emotional intelligence training, which myself and another social worker developed and run with the team. And we also held weekly leadership training as well and get togethers. So we are, as a team, accountable for how everyone else is feeling as well. - Imran Ayoubi (Key Assets NSW)

  • Improving Mastery through strengthened onboarding in residential aged care (Whiddon)

The supernumerary position enabled us experienced staff to take a step back. We weren't worried about the goings on of the entire day, we were able to take our time and let new staff experience things for themselves. - Kanada Long (Whiddon)

  • Improving handover processes and knowledge sharing (Bankstown City Aged Care)

Now it's like so much easier for us. Because like instead of waiting around [for an RN], we just come to the board and look at what the task for the day is. And then it just is just good for the time management as well. It gives us more time to spend with the clients instead of just wasting our time waiting around. - Wirda Carbucos (Bankstown City Aged Care)

Furthermore, participating care workers have expressed appreciation for the safe environment created, the opportunity to learn from peers, and the emotional support received throughout the process.


So we sat together with the staff. And we went through ‘Will this work? Will that work?’ And we would trial it at first. And we'll say ‘Well, it's not set in concrete. Let's try this’. And it was successful. - Sarla Singh (Bankstown City Aged Care)

4. Leadership engagement and support is crucial

Leadership engagement and support are paramount in the ultimate success (or failure) of a work redesign initiative. While leaders should not be tasked with generating specific redesign ideas (as this process should involve collaborative input from care workers), their commitment to implementing proposed solutions is vital.


Many of the care workers who actively participated in the redesign process identified their leader’s support for change as a crucial factor enabling the success of interventions.


I know for our team, well-being is always a priority. If we're not looking after ourselves, how are we going to look after the young people that we serve? So [our leaders] supported the program and whatever we needed to do to support our staff. - Imran Ayoubi (Key Assets NSW)

The early results seen from our work design interventions are promising. We look forward to gaining further insights as we continue working with the remaining five H&SA organisations and transition to the 'Track' phase, where we evaluate the impact of these redesign interventions.


Watch the event recording below:



View the presentation slides below:

StateOfAffairs3_KeynoteSlideDeck_22022024_FINAL
.pdf
Download PDF • 6.58MB

View the transcript from the audience Q&A session below:


StateOfAffairs3_Audience_Questions
.pdf
Download PDF • 266KB

To learn more about PARRTH to SMART Work Design and the key work redesign success factors that emerged from the Design for Care project, download our report 'Changing work design to improve mental health in the healthcare and social assistance industry' here.



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