Implement good work design in your medium or large business

Learn about good work design and improve your practices.



How this helps your business

When employees are overworked, their mental health suffers. Workplaces with too-high workloads see more injuries, sick leave and compensation claims.

Reasonable workloads means employees can respond quickly to problems, because they are not already working at maximum capacity. They also perform better at their jobs and are at a lower risk of burnout. Workplaces that offer flexible, healthy working arrangements see better health outcomes, employee motivation and productivity.

Key stats and facts

Good work design increases employees' confidence and self efficacy, which in turn enhances performance. 

Parker, S. K. (1998) Role breadth self-efficacy: Relationship with work enrichment and other organizational practices. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(6), 835-852.

When employees have more control over how they do their jobs, lower workloads, and more support, their health improves. 

Egan, M., et al., (2007). The psychosocial and health effects of workplace reorganisation. A systematic review of organisational-level interventions that aim to increase employee control. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Step 1

Learn more on this topic

Work design (often referred to as job design), considers not only the type of work but also the workplace environment and your employee's capabilities.

Whether your workplace is based in an office, clinic or out on a work site, work design principles can have a significant effect on your workplace.

Good work design helps employees feel more motivated and less stressed. You can improve work design by exploring the following:

  • Job autonomy: allowing employees to make decisions within their job. For example, scheduling their own appointments or deciding when to take a break.
  • Task variety: giving employees responsibility for a variety of tasks within their skill level.
  • Skill utilisation: providing employees with opportunities to use their skills.
  • Job feedback: providing timely, respectful and useful feedback to employees.
  • Task identity: allowing employees to be involved in the end to end process of a job.
  • Task significance: ensuring that employees know their job is important by connecting the goals of the organisation with their roles. For example, cleaners are important in a hospital because they contribute to infection control, which is a key indicator of the quality of care.
  • Consultation: involving employees in the work redesign process to make work more interesting and meaningful.

Poor work design can lead to an increased risk of both physical and mental health risks, such as fatigue and work related stress. Poor work design is often the result of work overload. Watch this 5 minute video from EML that uses a light-hearted approach to start the conversation about managing workload at 'Inappropriate Corporation'.

Read the S.M.A.R.T brochure to better understand work design.

A good idea is to display this S.M.A.R.T poster in your workplace to build awareness among your employees and managers. It has practical examples from a range of different industries and workplaces that you could learn from.

The work design sketches and stories page also shares examples and tips from workplaces that you could learn from.

Step 2

Consult your staff

Have a chat with your employees about their job, including how they are finding work load, their energy levels and concerns around health, safety and wellbeing.

Remember, not all of your employees want the same things for their role, so it is important to understand individual needs, and consider these as part of meeting overall workplace demands and objectives.

Check out the below ideas for how you can have this conversation with your employees.

Ideas to engage your employees:

  • use a suggestion box
  • ask the question in different ways, "how can we do this job better?"
  • use your engagement surveys
  • have one-on-one discussions
  • casually walk around your workplace and start conversations
  • through your Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)
  • offer confidential opportunities for employees to make suggestions
  • tea or break room discussions
  • encourage any interns, trainees or apprentices who come into your workplace to contribute fresh ideas to a work design problem

Watch the video from Superfriend below on Co-design, as another approach in reviewing roles.

Step 3

Consider the workload

Complete this step after you have had a chat to your employees and have some understanding around work design. Complete the checklist below and tick 'Yes' for each sign of work overload that you've seen in your workplace. Note how your work environment and management behaviours could be impacting positively or negatively on workload. You'll determine your priority areas in Step 5.

Some other contributing factors in your workplace could include:

  • lack of resourcing, both financial and people
  • lack of supervision
  • delivery timelines and restrictions
  • public and community expectations
  • work rostering
  • peak periods of work such as Christmas time in retail, or end of financial year in many industries
  • sick leave and employee absenteeism
  • management skill level - lack of appropriate training for employees and managers can build pressure
  • workplace culture and environment

Step 4

Make a start

Take a look at the tip sheet below and choose 1 or 2 strategies that you think will make a difference in your workplace. Get your people involved – since they are the ones doing the work, they often have valuable suggestions.

Tip: Choose strategies that are achievable in the next 2 months. This will show everyone in the workplace that lowering work overload is important and a priority for the business.

Page 22 onward of WorkSafe's Officewise guide can also help with work design in an office environment.

Step 5

Consider flexibility

Workplaces that offer flexible working arrangements see better employee health outcomes, motivation and overall productivity.

Listed below are a few common practices that businesses can offer. Take a look and see what fits your workplace. Talk with your people about what would need to happen to make these possible and what kind of arrangements they would value the most.

Common flexible working arrangements include:

  • changed starting and finishing times
  • part-time work or job sharing
  • working more hours over fewer days
  • working extra hours to make up for time taken off
  • time off work instead of overtime payments
  • 5 day working weeks

There are other kinds of flexible arrangements. The key is to find the arrangement that best suits you and your employees.

Step 6

Review and keep improving

It's important to ask your employees their opinion on any new strategy. It also gets your team involved, on board and feeling like they are a part of the process.

Use the checklist below and start getting feedback on how it's going.

  • Ask employees the right questions: Are we doing things right, or are there better ways it can be done?
  • Always chat with all employees about what you're doing. If something didn't work, say so, and get their ideas for how to improve things.
  • Review regularly – set a date and stick to it.
  • Look to see if your goal has been achieved. If not, why?

More resources

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.