How can simple changes to someone’s job improve their wellbeing?

04 April 2018

Good job design can be very beneficial for employees’ mental health and wellbeing. It can also contribute to an organisation’s overall effectiveness by empowering employees and encouraging them to be creative and to develop more efficient work methods.

Good job design includes the way an employee’s tasks are organised, their access to adequate resources, the amount of autonomy they have over their work schedules, and the procedures they use to complete their job. It also ensures employees use a variety of skills within their job and encourages them to take on higher levels of responsibility.

Job crafting is also an important part of job design and involves employees individually customising their job by changing elements of their role that they don’t enjoy, improving their interactions with others or viewing their job – and their organisational contribution – in a more positive way.

SuperFriend Program Manager, Workplace Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Celia Burrows says positive psychology is also an essential part of good job design and job crafting, as outlined in page 18 of SuperFriend’s Promoting Positive Mental Health in the Workplace Guidelines for Organisations.

“Positive psychology focuses on exploring and expanding what makes life worthwhile, productive and fulfilling – a life well lived,” Ms Burrows says.

“Initially the focus of positive psychology was at the individual wellbeing level.  Positive psychology research shows happiness leads to success in nearly every life domain, from health and longevity to workplace performance, creativity and relationships.”

“More recently positive psychology is looking to uncover how to build positive organisations and systems, such as schools and workplaces.

“Positive psychology has two levels in it – job design and job crafting. Job design is how an organisation determines the roles and who works best in each role. Job crafting is the physical and cognitive changes an individual can make to their task.”

Ms Burrows says job crafting allows employees to reshape their job so it’s more aligned to their skills and motivation.

“It’s understanding what motivates people, and their individual interests and strengths.”


Keeping us switched on

Sharon Parker from the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Transformative Work Design also says good work design – enriched with job resources – might help to keep us smart.

She says while fluid intelligence, such as memory and problem-solving abilities, decline with age, brain plasticity, or the growth of new brain cells, has been shown to be aided by an enriched work environment involving challenging and complex tasks.

SuperFriend’s 2017 Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Study shows many characteristics found in positive work environments are linked to good job design, such as managers making sure employees have adequate resource access or holding regular reviews to ensure people are in the right roles for their capabilities and motivation.

By providing employees with autonomy, challenging, meaningful tasks and adequate support and access to resources, employers can ensure good job design leading to a positive and a productive workplace.


A few tips for good job design
  • Look at the way your employees’ tasks are organised. Are they working to an effective schedule or do they have periods of being really busy and then times when they are looking for things to do? Can you implement a workflow that better suits individual employees? For example, consider that everyone has a different biological clock. If one employee is a morning person, help them prioritise their more complicated tasks first thing and leave easier jobs to later in the day. If another has more get up and go in the afternoon, suggest they save their harder work until after lunch.
  • Do they have access to the resources they need to do their job properly? It could be as simple as providing stationery, a software program, access to websites or suitable equipment. For example, media organisations now provide journalists and photographers with lap-tops or iPads so they can save time and file stories and pictures from wherever they are reporting.
  • Do your employees have some say over their role? Having some autonomy over their work environment can help make someone feel valued and involved. They can have input through either individual sessions with their manager and/or and team meetings where everyone is encouraged to have their say about their workload and work tasks – both good and bad. For example, a local council has whiteboards in all its departments devoted to “ways to improve” where all employees can write down how tasks can be done more efficiently.
  • Look at the methods your employees use to complete their tasks. Is there any way they can be streamlined or done in a more effective way? For example, just using simple email folders can help someone be more organised.
  • Increasing the skills and capability of employees and people leaders is an easy and effective way to improve the mental health and wellbeing of your workforce. SuperFriend’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Training equips employees and people leaders with the confidence, skills, strategies and tools to respond effectively to stress, support one another, and achieve their full potential at work and beyond.


This article was featured in our monthly e-Newsletter SuperFriend News which provides practical advice for employers to guide them in creating positive, cohesive and productive environments for all employees.