Work and Wellbeing · 24 September 2018

Job design matters: 4 ways to boost employee wellbeing by reimagining their job roles

Job design
When employees are encouraged to design their own jobs, workplace happiness and productivity often increases

The pressure to be “always on” and “always in” is slowly taking over from productivity and output-based goals for businesses. This is also the number one reason why so many people report to work even when sick, work through their weekends and annual leave, and report feeling stressed and unhappy on the job. Can redesigning job roles solve this worrying problem?

The average adult in the UK spends 57% of their waking hours working, but only 28% are highly satisfied with their jobs according to a new international study from the University of East Anglia and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

The study suggests that when employees are encouraged to design their own jobs, workplace happiness and productivity often increases.

The research, covering over 4,000 studies into workplace wellbeing, reveals that employee wellbeing isn’t necessarily tied to their sector or job title. Instead, things like how secure their job is, the social elements of work, clear responsibilities and on-the-job training and learning opportunities are what defines a good job.

When employees take on a role that ignores these elements, their satisfaction immediately nosedives. The study suggests that even when employees move out of unemployment into work, these factors still influence wellbeing.

With this in mind, here are four ways to get job design right for a happier, healthier team.

Flexible working and working remotely

A recent study from PageGroup lists flexible working hours as the most wanted workplace benefit, with 71% of survey respondents listing flexitime above free lunches, subsidised travel and unlimited paid holiday. Competitive employers today should be prepared to offer flexible working to their employees — especially when you consider that 73% of people say that benefits affect their decision to turn down a job.

Not every job requires a physical presence. According to a survey by tech company Paessler, 70 per cent of UK SMEs are already using cloud technology or are set to do so in the near future.

The ability to work wherever is sought by many, and with cloud-based apps and tools, this is a reality for most SMEs. Not only will this widen your potential talent pool, it will show staff that you trust them to do their work. With the right software and constant communication, workers can do their jobs efficiently.

Of course, the flip side is that they do need to do their work. It’s not the average day at home. That’s where expectations need to be set. Initial guidance and support may be necessary.

Flexible working, when done right, is a win/win scenario. Employees can commit to a full-time job while maintaining a good work/life balance. This has a positive impact on productivity, engagement and motivation, which means improved performance and staff retention for your business.

By giving employees the option to work convenient hours or from anywhere (or both!), you can build loyalty and engagement.

Job sharing: Double trouble or a secret weapon for productivity?

As the concept suggests, job sharing means two employees literally share the same role. Both work only a few days a week. Sometimes there’s a day of crossover so they can hand over work.

They’ll have more time outside of the office, but you’ll always have someone to cover that one role. Not to mention, you have double the brains and enthusiasm. There’s a wider range of skills and experience – and an influx of ideas.

For this to work, however, they have to be accountable and completely transparent when communicating with each other and to you.

Both employees need the same set of goals and, more importantly, they need to be able to stick to plans and share both accountability and any glory.

The biggest challenges for employers will be finding employers that are compatible and with a similar work ethic. You and your employees will require a high degree of commitment and organisation. It calls for a major change of mindset and the way you think about resourcing and hiring moving forward.

Planning work flow efficiently

When projects run behind, stress levels ramp up. Everyone works overtime, they get burnt out or become ill, and quality of work declines as staff struggle to juggle multiple jobs. Preventing scenarios where employees are overburdened starts with you.

Think of how you currently work in the business. What is your work flow? When are deadlines most likely to loom ahead? What are the bottlenecks and is there a time-management issue here you need to address?

Learn how your employees manage their work and how they respond to deadlines, and plan ahead as much as possible. Create a work flow that doesn’t rely on too many changing of hands, and create a rhythm alongside your team. What works for them? How much notice do they need to deliver work?

Set clear expectations on the quality and timeliness of work as early as possible, and monitor progress to see if you need to adjust work flow either way.

While letting projects fall behind is bad for business, it has a worse toll on employees burning the midnight oil. This does mean possibly investing time in training, additional resources, or rejigging how you drip-feed information to meet deadlines.

Designing opportunities to delegate and collaborate

Both delegating and collaboration are essential tools for efficient work management. If too much hinges on the performance of one person, it adds an immense amount of pressure on teams and your bottom line.

In addition to managing your work flow, think about key employees that need to add their input into various phases of work.

Break up tasks so that collaboration becomes an essential part of delivering work.

While it might take time to find out which employees’ strengths will deliver in various situations, always make sure that every single person on your team is accountable for their part of the work flow. This will give them a sense of autonomy and personal pride in being instrumental to the performance of your business  a key element in keeping employees happy and motivated.

A job role is far more important than it looks, especially when it comes to your employees’ health and happiness. So think about what yours says the next time you post a job ad or talk to your team about their wellbeing.

Visit AXA PPP healthcare’s Work & Wellbeing programme to find out how inspirational entrepreneurs implement wellbeing culture into their business.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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