CRAFTING YOUR JOB

I really love what I do and in fact, that is one of the most important things about good work - which is what I do research on. It’s important to get a fit between your work and your skills, interests and passions. And I really feel

that I have that.

A great deal of evidence shows the importance of high quality “work design” for your physical and mental health, and your psychological well-being [1][2]. Well-designed work can also increase outcomes such as creativity, innovation, job performance, faster return to work after injury, job safety, and even improved cognitive functioning.

SMART work design

The Centre for Transformative Work Design in Perth has consolidated this research into a practical model called ‘SMART work design’. Jobs with a SMART work design are Stimulating, foster Mastery, enable Agency, are Relational, and have Tolerable demands.

Stimulating

Stimulating work has the following characteristics:

  • Skill variety – the degree to which your job requires a variety of skills and abilities. 

  • Task variety – the degree to which you perform a wide range of tasks in your role. 

  • Problem solving demands – the degree to which your job requires you to 'think outside the box'.

Stimulating refers to the extent to which your job is challenging, interesting, and meaningful.

Hover over this box to learn more about the characteristics of stimulating work. 

Mastery

Work high in mastery includes:

  • Role clarity – the degree to which you clearly understand what you need to do and what is expected of you. 

  • Feedback – the degree to which your job provides information on your performance in the role.

  • Task identity – how much your job allows you to see a task through from beginning to end. 

Mastery refers to the degree to which you have the clarity and information to learn and to carry out your core tasks to a very high standard.

Hover over this box to learn more about fostering mastery at work. 

Agency

Having agency at work includes:

  • Work scheduling autonomy – the extent to which you are able to organise your own schedule.

  • Work methods autonomy – the extent to which you can choose the methods through which to achieve your work goals.

  • Decision-making autonomy – refers to the extent to which you are able to make judgements and decisions about your work. 

Agency in your work means you have a degree of control and autonomy over what you do, when you do it, and how you do it. It also means you are consulted or involved in decisions that affect your job as much as is feasible.

Hover over this box to learn more work agency. 

Relational

Relational work has the following characteristics:

  • Social support – the extent to which an individual feels supported by those they work with, including their supervisors. 

  • Task significance – how much an individual feels their work is important in relation to the lives of others and society more broadly. 

  • Social worth – the amount that a person feels their work is appreciated. 

Relational aspects of work are importance because all humans have a need to connect with others. Well-designed work in this area means having a sense of support, purpose, and social contact in your role.

Hover over this box to learn more about relational work. 

Tolerable

Tolerable job features include: 

  • Time pressure – the degree to which an adequate amount of time is provided to complete your work. 

  • Emotional demands – the degree to which your work creates emotionally demanding situations. 

  • Role conflict – the degree to which feedback, instructions, and demands are inconsistent and contradictory (e.g., different supervisors giving you mixed messages).

Tolerable demands mean that your job is manageable and not physically, emotionally, or mentally overwhelming to you. Having a job with tolerable demands would mean receiving reasonable (‘moderate’) scores on tolerable characteristics. 

Hover over this box to learn more about tolerable demands.

When demands are not tolerable, there is an increased risk of burnout and other mental health problems, especially if this situation occurs for a long period of time. Whilst some jobs will be more difficult than others, there is always a need for these demands to be at a tolerable level. Having higher levels of each of the other aspects of work (SMAR) can help make demands more tolerable, for example by a supportive supervisor.

 

You can find many more materials about SMART work design, including short videos describing each of the elements, at smartworkdesign.com.au. You can also investigate how SMART your own job is by completing the Managing Your Work Health and Well-Being survey on this website. 

Crafting your way to a SMARTER work design

The quality of your work design, or how SMART it is, depends on many factors, such as the structure of the organisation, your employment contract, technology, and the approach and style of your leader or supervisor. But to some extent, you can also shape your work design through job crafting.

What is job crafting? 

Job crafting is the way that employees take initiative to mold, shape, and change their jobs to better suit their preferences, passions, strengths, and interests [3][4]. Job crafting happens in a variety of industries and jobs, even in jobs constrained by low autonomy. Research has shown that job crafting can improve employees’ person-job fit, and thereby enhance work engagement, meaningfulness, well-being, and performance [5].

Job crafting vs. job design 

Job crafting is self-initiated behaviours that individuals take to customize their jobs. In contrast, job design involves formal organizational practices and interventions [6]. Compared with the top-down approach of job design, job crafting is a more feasible approach for employees to adjust their jobs, as it does not require formal approval from management. However, this does not mean employees can change every aspect of their jobs as they wish. Job crafting must be done within the zone of acceptance of their organizations, supervisors, and peers.

Strategies for complementing job crafting into your job

Consider discussing your work design with your boss or your colleagues, and come to an agreement about how your work can be made more stimulating (e.g., by taking on a new project) or more tolerable (e.g., by team teaching). Alternatively, you could make some changes yourself, such as by building your networks so that your job is more relational.

There are different strategies to make your job worthwhile. According to job demands-resources theory, all job characteristics can be divided into job resources and job demands [7]. The aim of job crafting is to enhance your job resources and challenging demands while keep your hindering demands at a minimum level. To help achieve this, here are five specific behavioural strategies and one cognitive strategy [4][8][9]:

  1. Increase structural job resources so that you increase your autonomy and opportunities for development in your job. For example, you can seek opportunities to improve your research skills in your job.

  2. Increase social job resources to help build networks, get feedback, and access support. For example, you can collaborate with your co-workers, or make connections with people who have benefited from your research to improve the meaningfulness of your job.

  3. Increase challenging job demands to make your job more motivating. For example, you can initiate new projects or participate in more projects that you are interested in.

  4. Optimize demands to make your work more efficient. Rather than step away from the undesirable job demands in your job, you can optimize your schedule or methods to increase your efficiency in dealing with your undesirable tasks, so you have more time for the aspects of your job that you enjoy. For example, you can schedule your teaching load onto specific days so that you have unbroken periods of time to focus on your research.

  5. Decrease hindering job demands to make sure you are not overburdened. For example, you can keep away from people who make you emotionally uncomfortable or avoid emotionally draining tasks.

  6. Cognitive crafting. Besides using actions and behaviours to craft your job, you can also cognitively craft your job. This involves altering your view or perceptions of your job. This cognitive aspect is crucial, as it is most closely aligned to finding meaning in work and work identity. Through reframing or redefining the way you perceive your work, you can achieve better environmental fit, even without behavioural changes [4]. For example, you can broaden your perspective about your job through appreciating how your work impacts others.

Research has shown that the first four job crafting strategies are generally beneficial. However, in order to reduce hindrance demands, keep these additional considerations in mind [5]:

First, if you decrease hindrance demands without considering the effects this will have on others, you may cause negative outcomes for your colleagues. Be careful in the way you craft your work so that you are not simply offloading your tasks onto others.

Second, if decreasing hindrance demands is the ONLY job crafting strategy you engage in, this may indicate you have an avoidance-oriented approach to work. This can be symptomatic of disengagement or even burnout and may call for a more radical change to your situation, such as calling on management for help, or even thinking about finding a different job.  For example, you may need to ask for more help from management, or even start considering changing jobs.

What if I fail in crafting my job?

Job crafting is not always successful. It can fail if your goal is not aligned with your organization, or if you do not have sufficient resources to support you. In addition, job crafting should be planned out with benefits to others in mind. Reducing your workload by overloading your colleagues is beneficial to you, but will create an overall negative effect.

Sometimes, even well-planned job crafting which is both beneficial to you and your organisation can still fail. If this happens, talking to your supervisor can be helpful, as they may be able to offer support or suggestions. These resources can assist you with rethinking your approach and trying something different.

Suggested videos and podcasts

Ted Talk - The Puzzle of Motivation
Amy Wrzesniewski on Job Crafting
 
  1. Parker, S. K., Morgeson, F., Johns, G. (2017). Work design theory and research: Looking back over 100 years and looking forward to the future. Invited article, Special Centennial Issue, Journal of Applied Psychology.

  2. 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(5), 1332. 

  3. Tims, Maria, and Arnold B. Bakker. "Job crafting: Towards a new model of individual job redesign." SA Journal of Industrial Psychology 36, no. 2 (2010): 1-9.

  4. Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J.  (2001). Crafting a job: Employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26, 2, 179-201.

  5. Zhang, F., & Parker, S. K. (2019). Reorienting job crafting research: A hierarchical structure of job crafting concepts and integrative review. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(2), 126-146.

  6. Hornung, S., Rousseau, D. M., Glaser, J., Angerer, P., & Weigl, M. (2010). Beyond top‐down and bottom‐up work redesign: Customizing job content through idiosyncratic deals. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 187-215.

  7. Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands-resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3), 309-328.

  8. Tims, M., Bakker, A. B., & Derks, D. (2012). Development and validation of the job crafting scale. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(1), 173-186.

  9. Demerouti, E., & Peeters, M. C. (2018). Transmission of reduction‐oriented crafting among colleagues: A diary study on the moderating role of working conditions. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 91(2), 209-234.