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Working Together

Stream 3: Changing Work Design: Influences, Crafting and Work Redesign

About stream 3

It is a striking observation that there continues to be much poorly designed work in the world, despite the evidence of negative effects for individuals, organisations, and society if work is lacking in autonomy and other positive work characteristics. An innovative focus of this Centre is that we seek to better understand why poor work design persists, and how this situation can be changed through work redesign and crafting interventions. 

Ongoing and Past Projects

How do people design work? One focus of our research has been to investigate how people design work, which we refer to as “work design behaviour”. In a study on this topic (Parker, Andrei, & Van den Broeck, 2019), we showed that people frequently design work that is highly repetitious and boring. Moreover, the tendency to design boring work was greater for individuals with conservative values (rather than open values), for those with little expertise about psychological work design principles, and those who lacked autonomy in their own work. The figure below from our Harvard Business Review article on the topic summarises the findings.


Mapping the multi-level influences on work design. A summary of a model of antecedents of work design (from Parker, Van Den Broeck, & Holman, 2017) is shown below. This model shows that work design is affected by informal and emergent bottom-up processes (e.g., individual and team job crafting) as well as more formal top down processes (e.g., management decisions about who does what). Both sets of processes, in turn, are affected by factors at multiple levels.


For example: At the international level, globalization and market liberalization have opened up access to new suppliers in other countries, especially developing countries, which has increased the potential for organizations to influence work design within these countries. At the national level, factors such as the economy, culture, and institutions can shape work design. For instance, there is some evidence that countries with high GDP and low unemployment have better work designs, perhaps because these countries have more resources to invest in training and because companies also have to create better jobs in order to attract scarcer talent.


At the level of occupations, demarcations and distinct occupational values shape work design. Different skill-levels of occupations also can make a difference. For instance, when technology is introduced into high-skilled jobs, managers tend to implement more flexible methods of working based on the assumption that these forms of work design enable highly skilled employees to use technologies more effectively. 


At the organisational level, factors such as strategy, technology, the level of uncertainty, HR practices, and organisational structure all can have strong effects on work design.  For a detailed discussion of how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can affect work design, see Wang, Lui, and Parker (2020), and for a general discussion of how technology affects work design in positive and negative ways, see Parker & Grote (2020; see also Stream 5).


At the work group level, the composition of the team, the degree of team empowerment, the level of team interdependence, and the style of local leadership all influence work design. For example, an empowering leader in a team creates greater job autonomy for workers. The study by Parker, Andrei, and Van den Broeck (2019) shows that managers often design poorer work than non-managers.

At the individual level, people’s abilities, skills, personality, and demographics can affect the design of work. For example, a proactive individual is likely to actively craft more challenging and autonomous work tasks for her/himself (see below).


Source: Parker, Van Den Broeck, & Holman, 2017. Understanding the antecedents of work design matters because it influences how work can be redesigned or altered in order to achieve higher quality work. In an article about having impact beyond academia (Parker & Jorritsma, 2021), we used the model of antecedents to discuss different strategies we have used over our careers to create better work designs for people. 

Work redesign interventions. Work redesign interventions refer to ways in which work design can be improved to promote optimal outcomes for workers and organisations, such as well-being and performance. Work redesign interventions therefore serve as an antecedent to work design and can either be top-down, manager-led, or bottom-up, individual-led interventions. Top-down, manager-led interventions include things such as changes to policies and procedures, and reorganising individuals’ roles, tasks and responsibilities. These changes impact large numbers of workers simultaneously, perhaps across teams, departments, or the whole organisation.


To help synthesise the evidence from intervention studies, we conducted a rigorous systematic review of the academic literature to investigate the impact of top-down work redesign interventions on performance (Knight & Parker 2019). We identified 55 intervention studies of five main types:

i) Non-participative job enrichment and enlargement interventions –these increase  the variety of tasks and skills individuals use in their jobs, increasing the autonomy individuals have over how, where and when they do their work, and allowing individuals to be involved in decision-making.

ii) Participative job enrichment and enlargement interventions – These involve workers themselves developing solutions to aspects of work design they’d like to change, such as through discussion groups, conversations with managers, or encouraging engagement in online discussion forums.

iii) Relational interventions – These promote supportive interactions between workers as well as connections with those that workers’ jobs impact, such as customers, clients, and patients, making jobs more meaningful and purposeful.

iv)Autonomous work group interventions – These involve transferring autonomy from managers to teams so that team members themselves take on collective responsibility for the organisation of their work, and meeting work goals.

v) Organisational system-wide changes – These refer to managers making changes that affect whole organisations, such as changing policies and procedures (e.g. flexible working policies). 

39 of the 55 interventions demonstrated a positive impact on performance. Evidence for performance was most consistent for job enrichment and enlargement interventions (either participative or non-participative) and relational interventions. Interventions also seemed to be more effective when uncertainty is high, such as when it is not clear what methods to use to solve a work problem. In these situations, giving employees more control over decision-making and work processes appears more likely to increase performance.  We concluded that interventions are also more likely to be successful when organisational policies and procedures are aligned with work design. 


Source: Knight & Parker (2019)

We currently have intervention studies on-going in our Design for Care and SafeWork projects (LINK TO PREVIOUSLY).

Job crafting and related proactivity interventions. Bottom-up, individual-led interventions refer to the proactive strategies that individuals can implement themselves to change their own work design. An example of a bottom-up intervention is “job crafting”, which means changing aspects of one’s work to better suit one’s own needs and desires. For example, a person who feels that they are lacking flexibility might ask a manager if they can work from home at times to manage home demands. Another person who feels that they are not getting enough support might ask a colleague to help them with a specific work problem. Job crafting interventions typically involve an individual thinking about the tasks, roles and responsibilities that make up their job, and reflecting on which aspects they like most, which they like least, and which they’d most like to change. They then, through goal setting and action planning, put changes into place to mould their job to fit them. 

Research suggests that job crafting interventions are generally effective for increasing job crafting behaviours, and have positive effects on outcomes such as work engagement. However, much is still to be understood about the effectiveness of job crafting interventions on changing work design, and particularly around who such interventions are effective for. In one of our studies, we evaluated the effectiveness of a job crafting intervention in MBA students (Knight et al., 2021). We found that those who had higher workload at the beginning of the intervention were more likely to engage in job crafting activities which served to reduce their demands. Those with lower workload were more likely to engage in activities which increased their job resources, such as their autonomy, or opportunities for training and development. 

Job crafting has been recognized as an effective alternative approach for employees to have enriched and well-designed jobs. In the book chapter Tims & Knight (2019), we highlighted how job crafting can help individuals change aspects of their work for the better, including better health, well-being, and performance. 

There has been increasing attention and research on job crafting but unfortunately fragmented due to different theoretical perspectives and measurements. We provide a synthesis of existing job crafting research and a sound foundation for future job crafting research. To better understand the job crafting construct and synthesize job crafting literature, in Zhang & Parker (2019), we proposed a three-level hierarchical structure of job crafting, identifying approach/avoidance, behavioural/cognitive, and job resources/job demands from the highest level to the third level. 


Source: Zhang & Parker (2019)

Despite evidence on the positive effects of job crafting in general, different types of job crafting behaviours can lead to diverse outcomes. For example, in Zhang et al. (2021), we showed that job crafting to better use one’s strengths was related to better well-being and performance, while job crafting to better use one’s interests was only related to increased well-being. It indicates that a good balance between individual benefits and organisational benefits is needed.

Job crafting (at least when it is approach-oriented, see Zhang and Parker, 2019) is a type of proactive behaviour. Being proactive involves self-initiated, future-focused, and change-oriented behaviors (Parker, Bindl, & Strauss, 2010). Examples of our research on proactivity include:

In Cangiano et al. (2018), we found that when an individual behaves proactively at work, they are more likely to experience higher levels of daily perceived competence and vitality. However,when the supervisor is perceived to be punitive about mistakes, there can be negative effects for end‐of‐workday anxiety, and hence bedtime detachment. 

Cangiano et al. (2021) reported that proactivity can consume resources and interfere with the process of detachment on days when people reported low autonomous motivation.

In a review paper, Cai et al. (2019) showed that leader-, team-, and organization-related social context factors mainly influence employee proactivity through shaping “reason to,” “can do,” and “energized to” states (i.e., proactive motivational states, see Parker, Bindl, & Strauss, 2010) via individual-, team-, and cross-level processes. 

Practical resources

Parker, S. K., Andrei, D., & Van den Broeck, A. (2019). Why managers design jobs to be more boring than they need to be. Harvard Business Review, 5.


Knight, C., Parker, S. K., & Keller, A. C. (2020). Tripled levels of poor mental health: But there is plenty managers can do.


Keller, A. C., Knight, C., & Parker, S. K. (2020). Boosting job performance when working from home: Four key strategies.


Animated video (Wang, Liu, & Parker, 2020): How does the use of ICT affect individuals? A work design perspective.


Animated video (Zhang & Parker,2019): Reorienting job crafting research


Animated video (Parker, Wang, & Liao, 2019): When is proactivity wise?


Thrive at Work, job crafting: 

“Change the work website”


SMART work design website, thrive website. 

Work from home resources

Research publications

Antecedents of work design

Parker, S. K., Andrei, D. M., & Van den Broeck, A. (2019). Poor work design begets poor work design: Capacity and willingness antecedents of individual work design behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(7), 907.


Parker, S. K., & Grote, G. (2022). Automation, algorithms, and beyond: Why work design matters more than ever in a digital world. Applied Psychology, 71(4), 1171-1204.


Parker, S. K., Van den Broeck, A., & Holman, D. (2017). Work design influences: A synthesis of multilevel factors that affect the design of jobs. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 267-308.


Wang, B., Liu, Y., Qian, J., & Parker, S. K. (2021). Achieving effective remote working during the COVID‐19 pandemic: A work design perspective. Applied Psychology, 70(1), 16-59.

Work redesign interventions

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.


Knight, C., Tims, M., Gawke, J., & Parker, S. K. (2021). When do job crafting interventions work? The moderating roles of workload, intervention intensity, and participation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 124, 10352.


Parker, S. K., & Jorritsma, K. (2021). Good work design for all: Multiple pathways to making a difference. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 30(3), 456-468.


SWAN study ref? Also Georgia’s papers on redesign Hay et al… 

Job crafting & proactivity

Parker, S. K., Wang, Y., & Liao, J. (2019). When is proactivity wise? A review of factors that influence the individual outcomes of proactive behavior. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 6, 221-248.


Zhang, F., & Parker, S. K. (2022). Reducing demands or optimizing demands? Effects of cognitive appraisal and autonomy on job crafting to change one’s work demands. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 31(5), 641-654.


Zhang, F., Wang, B., Qian, J., & Parker, S. K. (2021). Job crafting towards strengths and job crafting towards interests in overqualified employees: Different outcomes and boundary effects. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 42(5), 587-603.


Knight, C., Tims, M., Gawke, J., & Parker, S. K. (2021). When do job crafting interventions work? The moderating roles of workload, intervention intensity, and participation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 124, 103522. 


Zhang, F., & Parker, S. K. (2019). Reorienting job crafting research: A hierarchical structure of job crafting concepts and integrative review. Journal Of Organizational Behavior, 40(2), 126-146.


Tims, M., & Knight, C. (2019). Job crafting: An individual strategy to develop oneself. In Creating psychologically healthy workplaces (pp. 152-170). Edward Elgar Publishing.


Cai, Z., Parker, S. K., Chen, Z., & Lam, W. (2019). How does the social context fuel the proactive fire? A multilevel review and theoretical synthesis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(2), 209-230.


Cangiano, F., Parker, S. K., & Ouyang, K. (2021). Too proactive to switch off: When taking charge drains resources and impairs detachment. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 26(2), 142.


Cangiano, F., Parker, S. K., & Yeo, G. B. (2019). Does daily proactivity affect well‐being? The moderating role of punitive supervision. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(1), 59-72.

For further information on our research

See our publications page

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