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SMART Work is Stimulating

The first letter in the SMART work framework stands for Stimulating. 

Simply put, Stimulating refers to the extent to which a job involves skill variety, task variety, and problem solving demands.

Skill variety describes the degree to which your job requires a variety of skills and abilities, while task variety refers to the degree to which you perform a wide range of tasks in your role. Problem solving demands describes the degree to which your job requires you to 'think outside the box'

Not all jobs are the same, so an individual’s work can be more or less stimulating.​​

Qualities of Highly Stimulating Jobs

In highly stimulating jobs, individuals are likely to:

  • use a wide variety of different skills and abilities to complete the work

  • carry out a number of different tasks to achieve their goals

  • need to 'think outside the box' to create solutions to problems

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"There's never a dull moment. I like the variety and being out and about around the hospital...This job teaches me a lot."

-Hospital supply worker.
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BORING - so much time to wait for deliveries!

- Deliveroo workers

Qualities of Unstimulating Jobs

In contrast, jobs with a low degree of stimulation will likely contain:

  • a lack of opportunities to use one’s skills and a narrow variety of tasks

  • monotonous and repetitive tasks

  • the need to solve menial and unchallenging problems

What are the Risks of a Low Stimulating Job?

Non-stimulating, boring, and repetitive work carries risks for both individuals as well as organisations:

Employees can become disengaged, have lower job satisfaction and have no or limited access to professional or personal development [1]. In highly physical work, narrow tasks can cause biomechanical strain or musculoskeletal injuries [2]. Employees in non-stimulating roles can also get “bore-out”, which involves feelings of demotivation, anxiety and sadness and can turn into burnout, depression and even physical illness [3] [4].

For organisations, the risks of narrow, repetitive or passive work include wasted talent, impaired performance, higher accident rate, turnover and absenteeism, as well as less and slower return to work after an injury or illness[5] [6].

Research Spotlight

Research from the past two decades shows boredom increases your risk of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, anger and aggressive behaviour, lack of interpersonal skills, and performing poorly at work [3].

Research from the University College of London looked at the extent to which individuals experienced a sense of boredom at work within a three year period 20 years previously. The researchers then looked at the relationship between boredom and heart problems. It was found that those who frequently experienced boredom at work were 2.5 times more likely to die of a heart problem than those who were not. [7]

Strategies to Make Work More Stimulating

If you find that your job does not require you to utilise a variety of different skills, come up with unique ideas or involve a wide range of tasks, there is still good news - you don’t necessarily have to change your current job to increase stimulation.

Here are some tips to help you increase challenge and variety in your job:

  • Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges and skill development opportunities. 

  • Check out what training opportunities are available through your organisation. 

To learn more strategies, check out our training opportunities.

Stimulating - SMART work design Explainer
Centre for Transformative Work Design

References

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

[2]  Parker, S. K., Bindl, U. K., & Strauss, K. (2010). Making things happen: A model of proactive motivation. Journal of Management, 36(4), 827-856.

[3] Loukidou, L., Loan-Clarke, J., & Daniels, K. (2009). Boredom in the workplace: More than monotonous tasks. International Journal of Management Reviews, 11(4), 381-405.

[4]  Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Euwema, M. C. (2005). Job resources buffer the impact of job demands on burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(2), 170-180.

[5] Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., de Boer, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 62(2), 341-356.

[6]  SafeWork NSW. (2017). Review of evidence of psychosocial risks for mental ill-health in the workplace.

[7] Britton, A., & Shipley, M. J. (2010). Bored to death?. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39(2), 370-371.

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