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Job Design and Mental Health

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 19 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Job Design Mental Health Stress

Stress at work can lead directly to mental health problems. But many organisations don’t have structures that help workers manage their stress levels.

A lot of employers might argue, however, that they do provide the means to Reduce Stress and improve staff well-being. They offer gyms and exercise facilities. They have counselling services. They run training courses about stress management.

But some business academics and consultants believe that occupational stress is still part and parcel of business culture. They point to companies that regard stress as a positive force that makes people work harder and more productively.

Another Approach

The concern that these academics and consultants have is that stress is not a good thing, especially in the long-term. The reason is that it can take a serious toll on Mental Health.

They advocate another approach. They propose that reducing occupational stress is good for workers and for business. And to cause such a reduction, employers need to look beyond gyms, training courses and counselling.

Job Design

Instead of these, the primary tool that can reduce stress and even improve the profits of a business is job design.

Job design theory is nothing new. It’s been around for at least a hundred years. But it’s never really caught the attention of employers to any great degree.

The theory doesn’t usually discuss mental health. But everything it suggests promotes the mental health of workers when employers apply it to their businesses.

Practical Effects

Two of the practical effects of successful job design are improved Job Motivation and increased job satisfaction. These issues go straight to the heart of stress problems at work.

Poor job satisfaction and the feeling that nobody really cares what they do can lead workers to suffer stress. This stress in turn creates an even greater sense of unhappiness with a job and a lack of motivation.

Employers who go out of their way to boost job satisfaction for their workers and enhance motivation see two things: greater commitment among staff and less stress.

To achieve this, such employers have considered the design of the jobs they ask workers to do.

Control, Change and Support

Most redesigning of jobs comes down to control. People want to feel they have some measure of control over their lives. This applies at work as much as at home.

Good job design therefore focuses on this issue. To begin with, it empowers workers to make decisions. These decisions may be modest, particularly if a worker is new to an organisation or working at a fairly low level. But being able to make any decision at all can boost workers’ job satisfaction and motivation.

Job design also looks at change. Many organisations experience change regularly. But they fail to involve staff. They impose change rather than discuss and manage it. Talking about change makes workers feel part of their organisation. It also encourages them to suggest new and profitable ideas.

The other major factor in job design is support. Workers who feel supported by their employers often have a positive attitude. And such an attitude helps reduce the incidence of stress and mental health problems.

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