SMART Work Enables Agency
The third letter in the SMART work framework stands for Agency.
Work scheduling refers to the extent to which you are able to organise your own schedule, while work methods refers to the extent to which you can choose the methods in which to achieve your work goals. Decision making refers to the extent to which you are able to make judgements and decisions individually.
Whilst some jobs will inherently involve a higher degree of agency than others, there is always ways in which to improve this aspect of work design.
Qualities of High Agency Jobs
For example, jobs with a high degree of agency allow individuals to:
control the timing and scheduling of their tasks
decide upon the best methods of completing a task, including the chance to show initiative
make decisions independently and feel empowered in doing so
“We are allowed so much freedom to use our creativity here.”
Qualities of Low
In contrast, jobs with a low degree of agency can involve:
a lack of flexibility or limited chances in which to provide input towards the scheduling and timing of tasks
excessive bureaucracy and red tape limiting the availability of different work methods
retribution and criticism for mistakes and micromanagement from supervisors
“It was hard not to have any control over my job – you don’t have input, everything is set out for you.”
Call Centre Operator
What Are the Risks of Low Agency Jobs?
Work that is overly restrictive, with little room for input or independent decision making poses a number of risks for individuals and organisations:
One of the key risks for employees who experience a low degree of agency in their work relates to mental health. A recent study showed that employees who had jobs with minimal agency had a 20-25% increased risk of experiencing mental health issues .
For organisations, the risks of overly controlling work, with little room for input are extensive. Research has demonstrated that enhancing agency can lead to improved safety outcomes, employee engagement, skill development/learning, productivity and proactivity  .
'Agency' in Action
 SafeWork NSW. (2017). Review of evidence of psychosocial risks for mental ill-health in the workplace.
 Parker, S. K., (2015). Does the evidence and theory support the ‘Good Work Design Principles’: An educational resource. Safe Work Australia.
 Parker, S. K. (2014). Beyond motivation: Job and work design for development, health, ambidexterity, and more. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 661-691.
 Parker, S. K., Wall, T. D., & Cordery, J. L. (2001). Future work design research and practice: Towards an elaborated model of work design. Journal of occupational and organizational psychology, 74(4), 413-440.
 Xanthopoulou, D., Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2009). Reciprocal relationships between job resources, personal resources, and work engagement. Journal of Vocational behavior, 74(3), 235-244.