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SMART Work Design

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The SMART work design model, developed by Australian Research Council Professor Sharon Parker at the Future of Work Institute is a framework that can be used when designing meaningful and motivating work.

SMART Work Design

Based on decades of research [1],The SMART work design model outlines five key themes to consider when creating or developing work, that result in positive outcomes that contribute to creating a Thriving organisation. The themes for SMART work are: Stimulating, Mastery, Agency, Relational, and Tolerable Demands.

This framework can assist individuals and organisations to better understand the elements of work design and enable the development of tailored solutions to fit the organisation, individuals and situation. Focusing on how to optimise work design through SMART can lead to more meaningful, interesting and motivating work which will have significant benefits for employees and employers alike.

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The five themes of SMART:

S

'S' for Stimulating

M

'M' for Mastery

A

'A' for Agency

R

'R' for Relational

T

'T' for Tolerable demands

Work design has a major impact on how individuals feel at work, and affects outcomes at multiple levels including whether employees feel engaged or stressed at work, and whether the organisation achieves its targets.

Designing work that incorporates and considers how to optimise the job characteristics in the SMART Work Design model will lead to more meaningful and motivating work, which has significant benefits for employees and employers alike. 

Workplace Wellbeing

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SMART work design is a key component of Thrive at Work, a world-first wellbeing initiative centred on designing work that helps employees, organisations and industry to thrive.

 

SMART work design is specifically related to the Prevent Harm pillar of the framework.The Thrive at Work framework incorporates and extends beyond the elements of the SMART work design model and explains how we can support people in workplaces to get well (Mitigate Illness), stay well (Prevent Harm) and be the best they can be (Promote Thriving).

Led by the Future of Work Institute- at Curtin University, Thrive at Work has been developed with leading mental health bodies – for and with, businesses.

For more information visit:

Why is SMART Work Design important?

Decades of research have shown us that good work design practices have positive impacts on individuals, teams and organisations. In particular are the positive effects on preventing harm, wellbeing, and productivity. 

  • Preventing Harm: SMART work design practices can protect individuals from harm by eliminating or minimising the risk of physical and psychological harm before it occurs [2]. 

  • Enhanced Wellbeing: Introducing positive work design principles through the SMART model can help improve employee wellbeing, which extends beyond the absence of mental ill health towards a sense of thriving. This has been linked towards individuals being more committed to their organisations, more creative, more engaged, higher performing and more innovative [3] [4]. 

  • Increased Productivity: Research demonstrates that good work design can result in significant financial benefits to organisations through both cost saving and productivity gains [5]. 

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SMART Workin the Digital Age

The nature work is rapidly changing. The size of the labour force is increasing, part time work is more common than ever, and Australia has continued to shift away from manufacturing towards a service economy. Alongside this, flexible work requirements, an ageing population, access to disruptive technologies and the gig economy all present further challenges [6]. 

In response to these challenges, the SMART work model has been developed. SMART work presents a unifying model that empowers employees and managers alike to start making meaningful changes to their work in order to improve wellbeing, reduce risk and enhance productivity in the digital age [3]. 
 

The Business Case

It's easy to understand how improving an individuals work design can make their job more satisfying and enjoyable. The benefits do not stop there however. There are a wide range of positive outcomes that organisations can expect from their employees including: 

1. Increased motivation, job satisfaction [7] and organisational commitment [8]

2. Increased creativity, proactivity and innovation [9]

3. Enhanced wellbeing and psychological health [10] [11] [12] 

4. Higher levels of personal resources such as self efficacy, optimism and self esteem [13]

5. Reduced risk of sickness and stress-related illness [14]

6. Reduced numbers of critical safety incidents [15]

7. Enhanced learning and development and better cognitive functioning in later life [16]

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To discover how SMART your work is, take our assessment 

"How 5 minutes a day could save Perth hospitals millions"

Case Study: SMART in Action

Recent research conducted by CTWD illustrates the large and critical impacts that even small SMART work design changes can make to organisational outcomes. 

 

The CTWD Perth hospital study trialled the use of inter-discipline surgical briefings in order to increase the Relational and Mastery domains of the SMART model. These briefings encouraged team members to come together just five minutes before the beginning of surgery and introduce themselves, discuss the upcoming procedures and any areas of concern. This simple positive SMART work design practice looked to increase role clarity and feedback from others (Mastery), while building relationships (Relational) in line with the organisation’s strategic objective. 


Preliminary results indicate a number of positive outcomes. First, there was found to be a 30% increase in efficiency within teams that engaged in the initiative. This was calculated to correspond to a $5 - 17 million saving for a hospital if they were to fully implement the initiative. Second, surgical teams acknowledged that the briefings resulted in increased engagement and better communication within teams. Improved communication is likely to result in better patient safety outcomes and enhance productivity more broadly.

References

[1] ​ Parker, S. K., Morgeson, F. P., & Johns, G. (2017). One hundred years of work design research: Looking back and looking forward. Journal of applied psychology, 102(3), 403.

[2]  Burton, J. (2010). WHO healthy workplace framework and model: Background and supporting literature and practices. World Health Organisation; Geneva.

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

[4]  Schaufeli, W. B., Bakker, A. B., & Van Rhenen, W. (2009). How changes in job demands and resources predict burnout, work engagement, and sickness absenteeism. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(7), 893-917.

[5]  Garrow, V. (2016). Presenteeism: A review of current thinking. Institute for Employment Studies (507).

[6] Cassells, R., Duncan, A., Mavisakalyan, A., Phillomore, J., Seymour, R., & Tarverdi, Y. (2019). Future of Work in Australia. Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre. Perth, Australia. 

[7] Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1975) Development of the job diagnostic survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60(2), 159-170.

[8] Humphrey, S. E., Nahrgang, J. D., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). Integrating motivational social and contextual work design features: A meta-analytic summary and theoretical extension of the work design literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1332–1356.

[9] Tornau, K., & Frese, M. (2013). Construct clean-up in proactivity research: a meta-analysis on the nomological net
of work-related proactivity concepts and their incremental validities. Applied Psychology, 62, 44–96.

[10]  Nieuwenhuijsen, K., Bruinvels, D., & Frings-Dresen, M. (2010). Psychosocial work environment and stress-related disorders, a systematic review. Occupational Medicine, 60, 277-286.

[11] Theorell, T., Hammarström, A., Aronsson, G., Träskman Bendz, L., Grape, T., Hogstedt, C., Marteinsdottir, I., Skoog, I., & Hall, C. (2015). A systematic review including meta-analysis of work environment and depressive symptoms. BMC Public Health 15, no.1.

[12]  Stansfeld, S., & Candy, B. (2006). Psychosocial work environment and mental health—a meta-analytic review. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 32, 443-462.

[13]  Xanthopoulou, D., Bakker, A.B., Demerouti, E., & Schaufeli, W.B. (2007). The role of personal resources in the job
demands–resources model. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 121–41.

[14]  Belkic, K. L., Landsbergis. P. A., Schnall, P. L., & Baker, D. (2004). Is job strain a major source of cardiovascular disease
risk? Scand. J. Work Environ. Health, 30, 85–128.
[15]  Parker, S. K., (2015). Does the evidence and theory support the ‘Good Work Design Principles’: An educational resource. Safework Australia. 

[16]  Karp, A., Andel, R., Parker, M.G., Wang, H.X., Winblad, B., & Fratiglioni, L. (2009). Mentally stimulating activities at
work during midlife and dementia risk after age 75: follow-up study from the Kungsholmen Project. Am.
Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17, 227–36.

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