Thursday, 26 September 2013

Reshape your job to get more of what you want

It's possible to proactively shape our job to get more of what we want , but harder to shed the hassles we don't. So suggests a new study on job crafting, the process of realigning your own work duties and environment to be better for you.

The study looked at two elements of work – demands and resources – which we've discussed before . Demands are twofold: unhelpful and costly hindrances like emotionally tiring activities; and challenges such as high workload, which can be beneficial by ramping up motivation (this is the stance taken in the current study). The other type of job characteristic is the job resource: a helpful feature that can be structural, like opportunities to build skills, or social, such as receiving support from co-workers.

An Erasmus University team led by Maria Tims measured job demands and resources in a sample of 288 chemical plant workers, and all participants received feedback on their scores in every area, together with standardised advice on how one might improve in each. One month later, the researchers visited the sample again to survey any changes participants had elected to make; a month after that, demands and resources were measured again.

Participants who had elected to craft their job in ways related to resources – e.g. 'Last month, I tried to do new things at work' showed an increase in that resource by the final time point. Wellbeing measures, taken at the start and end of the study, showed that crafting of either social or structural resources led to higher work engagement and satisfaction, and lower burnout; this effect was explained by the increase in resources.

Participants were much less active in trying to craft job demands, and the efforts they made didn't shift the amount of demand experienced at the final time point. The only effect found was that crafting challenging demands led to lower burnout; the authors explanation for this is that the mere fact of engaging in job crafting might affect wellbeing even before any concrete improvements are seen.

Job redesign is a fascinating area, and this paper represents a current of growing interest in the bottom-up crafting actions that employees can take to improve their own conditions. The findings suggest that for those in a role, it's an easier task to develop your resources than to reduce the demands placed upon you. As a consequence, Tims's team conclude that 'management interventions should focus more on the effects of job demands on employee well-being', to deal with the factors that are more difficult to budge from the bottom.

ResearchBlogging.orgTims M, Bakker AB, & Derks D (2013). The impact of job crafting on job demands, job resources, and well-being. Journal of occupational health psychology, 18 (2), 230-40 PMID: 23506549

Further reading:
Crawford, E. R., LePine, J. A., & Rich, B. L. (2010). Linking job demands and resources to employee engagement and burnout: A theoretical extension and meta-analytic test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 834 – 848. doi:10.1037/a0019364


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