AccessEAP blog

Job design must be considered to reduce workplace stress

With more and more Australians reporting work to be a major source of stress and research suggesting that one in six working age person is suffering from mental illness, managers need to take more responsibility in an effort to reverse this worrying trend. Workplaces need to move beyond promoting mental health awareness, and focus on mentally healthy workplaces. This suggests thinking about the way work is designed and what changes can be introduced to prevent psychological harm to employees.

Mental illness is one of the leading causes of absence and long-term incapacity and one of the main reasons for reduced work performance. The mental health of a workplace can be enhanced by minimising the impact of known risk factors such as workload, lack of control and maximising the impact of potential protective factors like a supportive team and manager and re-designing work tasks.  Awareness of possibly stressful factors is required along with intervention or accommodation to an individual when necessary. The primary tool that can reduce stress in the workplace is job design.

Many managers have begun to realise that fast paced jobs with multiple demands as well as dull and repetitive job roles are designed for the task and not the person. When employees are performing these types of tasks, they risk becoming disengaged with their work and start making mistakes. As a result, we are starting to see a growing trend towards a greater emphasis on work and organisational design in recent years.

Work and organisational design or job design requires organising tasks, systems and structures so that people have some level of control and autonomy at work. This involves clarifying roles and responsibilities, improving supervision and workplace relationships and ensuring variety. Good workplace and work system design is achieved through consultation about how to best complete the task in the allocated time. Learning and development for senior managers need to cover skills such as difficult conversations, negotiation and supporting staff and managing psychological risks.

Job design is not fixed. It is constantly changing to ensure the best possible working conditions and the lowest risk of mental illness for employees. When creating a new role or working to improve an existing one, managers must consider the following; Job design is not fixed. It is constantly changing to ensure the best possible working conditions and the lowest risk of mental illness for employees. When creating a new role or working to improve an existing one, managers must consider the following;

  • Does the job provide meaning and stimulation as well as opportunities for the employee to use their skills?
  • Does the job allow for employee input?
  • Is the work schedule compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job?
  • Is the schedule flexible?
  • Is the workload in line with capabilities and resources?
  • Are there opportunities for development and growth of people?