top of page
Using a Tablet

Work Design for Performance, Learning, & Beyond

About stream 2

In this stream, we focus on how work design can shape job performance (e.g., creativity, productivity), learning-related outcomes (e.g., cognition, active development), and other outcomes including moral development and identity change.

Ongoing and Past Projects

How work design can affect performance. In Knight & Parker (2019), we summarize evidence from a systematic review showing how work redesign interventions such as job enrichment, on average, result in improved job performance. We provide an example in Hay, Klonek, & Parker (2020); a study that shows how the effective design of team work improved the diagnosis of rare diseases. Also in the health context, Fruhen et al. (2020) showed how teamwork can improve the communication and safety of surgical teams. 


In one PhD project, we show that there are curvilinear effects of job autonomy on job performance and other outcomes, suggesting that too much autonomy is not necessarily ideal. For more information, contact Dr Cheryl Yam,

Work design and effectiveness of virtual work. A focus of our research has been on how to enhance the effectiveness of virtual work and virtual teams (see Stream 4 for more detail). In reviewing the literature, we identified that work design factors (in particular task interdependence) are often critical for virtual teams to be effective (Handke et al., 2019). In an experimental study, we manipulated the extent to which virtual teams had shared resources and showed that this team-level work design manipulation significantly improved the team performance outcomes (Klonek & Parker, 2021). Furthermore, we developed novel technology (i.e., the communication analysis tool) that allows tracking team collaboration processes ‘in the wild’ so that organizations can better understand the key drivers of team performance (Klonek et al., 2020). For more information, contact Dr Florian Klonek,

How work design can affect learning and cognition. We are investigating how work design affects learning and cognition. In a thorough review of the literature, Parker, Ward, & Fisher (2021) showed that work design can affect cognition in the short-term (e.g., good work design can accelerate learning) and in the long-term (e.g., good work design protects people from cognitive decline as they age). See “Practical Resources” below for a video to understand how smart work design helps to create smart workers and a summary article in Sloan Management Review. 

On the theme of cognition, in Ward, et al. (2021) we showed that the physical design of the work context can shape cognition and performance. Specifically, cognition is impaired when surgery is conducted in a very hot setting. 

WALC: Working Across Lives and Careers. WALC is a long-term longitudinal study in which we investigate the role of work design in preventing cognitive decline, fostering moral reasoning, and promoting identity change. We also assess how work is changing, such as the impact of digitalization on work design (e.g., who is thriving in the digital age? Who is missing out?). 

Once it's rolled out, all individuals are welcome to participate in WALC, and can join at any time. When participants complete surveys, they receive personalised feedback and have access to videos, tips, and guidance to support your career development. 

For more detail on the WALC project, please go to our dedicated website:

Work design and moral engagement. In her PhD project, Dr Anu Jolly has investigated how people are more likely to engage in moral disengagement and make unethical decisions when they lack autonomy in their work. For more information, please email

Practical resources

Parker, S. K., & Fisher, G. G. (2022). How Well-Designed Work Makes Us Smarter. MIT Sloan Management Review, 63(3).

Animated video (Parker, Ward, & Fisher, 2021): Good work design can help older employees stay sharp

Klonek, F., & Parker, S. K. (2021). Designing SMART teamwork: How work design can boost performance in virtual teams. Organizational Dynamics, 50(1).

Research Publications Related to Work Design and Mental Health

Parker, S. K., Ward, M. K., & Fisher, G. G. (2021). Can high-quality jobs help workers learn new tricks? A multidisciplinary review of work design for cognition. Academy of Management Annals, 15(2), 406-454.

Hay, G. J., Klonek, F. E., & Parker, S. K. (2020). Diagnosing rare diseases: A sociotechnical approach to the design of complex work systems. Applied Ergonomics, 86, 103095.

Knight, C., & Parker, S. K. (2021). How work redesign interventions affect performance: An evidence-based model from a systematic review. Human Relations, 74(1), 69-104.

Handke, L., Klonek, F. E., Parker, S. K., & Kauffeld, S. (2020). Interactive effects of team virtuality and work design on team functioning. Small Group Research, 51(1), 3-47.

Klonek, F. E., Kanse, L., Wee, S., Runneboom, C., & Parker, S. K. (2022). Did the COVID-19 lock-down make us better at working in virtual teams?. Small Group Research, 53(2), 185-206.

Klonek, F. E., Meinecke, A. L., Hay, G., & Parker, S. K. (2020). Capturing team dynamics in the wild: The communication analysis tool. Small Group Research, 51(3), 303-341.

Parker, S. K. (2014). Beyond motivation: Job and work design for development, health, ambidexterity, and more. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 661-691.

Parker, S. K., Morgeson, F., & Johns, G. (2017). One hundred years of work design research: Looking back and looking forward. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 403-420.

Carpini, J. A., Parker, S. K., & Griffin, M. A. (2017). A look back and a leap forward: A review and synthesis of the individual work performance literature. Academy of Management Annals, 11(2), 825-885.

Parker, S. K., Ward, M. K., & Fisher, G. G. (2021). Can high-quality jobs help workers learn new tricks? A multidisciplinary review of work design for cognition. Academy of Management Annals, 15(2), 406-454.

Ward, M. K., Yam, C. M., Palejwala, Z., Wallman, K., Taggart, S. M., Wood, F. M., & Parker, S. K. (2021). An experimental simulation of heat effects on cognition and workload of surgical team members. Annals of Surgery, 274(5), e395-e402.

See our publications page

For further information on our research

bottom of page