SMART Work is Stimulating

The first letter in the SMART work framework stands for Stimulating

 

Simply put, Stimulating refers to the extent to which a job involves skill variety, task variety, and problem solving demands.

 

Skill variety describes the degree to which your job requires a variety of skills and abilities, while task variety refers to the degree to which you perform a wide range of tasks in your role. Problem solving demands describes the degree to which your job requires you to 'think outside the box'

Not all jobs are the same, so an individual’s work can be more or less stimulating.

Qualities of Highly Stimulating Jobs

In highly stimulating jobs, individuals are likely to:

  • use a wide variety of different skills and abilities to complete the work

  • carry out a number of different tasks to achieve their goals

  • need to 'think outside the box' to create solutions to problems

There's never a dull moment. I like the variety

and being out and about around the hospital.

This job teaches me a lot.

-Hospital supply worker.

Qualities of Unstimulating Jobs

In contrast, jobs with a low degree of stimulation will likely contain:

  • a lack of opportunities to use one’s skills and a narrow variety of tasks

  • monotonous and repetitive tasks

  • the need to solve menial and unchallenging problems

BORING- so much time to wait for deliveries!

- Deliveroo workers

What Are the Risks of a Low Stimulating Job?

Non-stimulating, boring, and repetitive work carries risks for both individuals as well as organisations:

Employees can become disengaged, have lower job satisfaction and have no or limited access to professional or personal development [1]. In highly physical work, narrow tasks can cause biomechanical strain or musculoskeletal injuries [2]. Employees in non-stimulating roles can also get “bore-out”, which involves feelings of demotivation, anxiety and sadness and can turn into burnout, depression and even physical illness [3] [4].

For organisations, the risks of narrow, repetitive or passive work include wasted talent, impaired performance, higher accident rate, turnover and absenteeism, as well as less and slower return to work after an injury or illness[5] [6].

Research Spotlight

  • Research from the past two decades shows boredom increases your risk of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, anger and aggressive behaviour, lack of interpersonal skills, and performing poorly at work [3].

  • Research from the University College of London looked at the extent to which individuals experienced a sense of boredom at work within a three year period 20 years previously. The researchers then looked at the relationship between boredom and heart problems. It was found that those who frequently experienced boredom at work were 2.5 times more likely to die of a heart problem than those who were not. [7]

Strategies to Make Work More Stimulating

If you find that your job does not require you to utilise a variety of different skills, come up with unique ideas or involve a wide range of tasks, there is still good news - you don’t necessarily have to change your current job to increase stimulation.

Strategies for Employees

Here are some tips to help you increase challenge and variety in your job:

  • Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges and skill development opportunities. Ask for a career counselling and brainstorming session to come up with ideas for moving forward.

  • Try a rotation program, to learn about the tasks of your co-workers and hopefully alternate your day to day responsibilities with them to improve the variety of your work. They will probably enjoy the opportunity to learn new skills themselves.

  • Make a list of your job variety in different areas: skills, activities, people interactions, etc. Try to focus on a different area each day.

Strategies for Managers

Given the risks of low stimulating jobs as well as the benefits of highly stimulating jobs, it is a good idea to apply strategies that increase challenge and variety for your employees:

 

  • Provide opportunities for job shadowing or job rotation, so your employees can learn something new in a different part of the company.

  • Check in with your employees to understand if they are sufficiently challenged by the tasks they have been given.

  • Ensure your employees are allocated a variety of tasks.

  • Regularly ask your employees what skills they would like to develop that could benefit their role. Be sure to allow time for skill development.

  • Support your employees if they wish to take part in one of your organisation’s fellowship programs. Some companies offer short-term fellowship programs that last three to six months and may take place in other parts of the country or even offices abroad.

Strategies for Organisations

Get in touch with our Collaboratory to discuss tailored strategies for your organisation or get inspired by our selection of resources.

 


 

'Stimulating' in Action

References

[1]  Parker, S. K. (2014). Beyond motivation: Job and work design for development, health, ambidexterity, and more. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 661-691.

[2]  Parker, S. K., Bindl, U. K., & Strauss, K. (2010). Making things happen: A model of proactive motivation. Journal of Management, 36(4), 827-856.

[3] Loukidou, L., Loan-Clarke, J., & Daniels, K. (2009). Boredom in the workplace: More than monotonous tasks. International Journal of Management Reviews, 11(4), 381-405.

[4]  Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Euwema, M. C. (2005). Job resources buffer the impact of job demands on burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(2), 170-180.

[5] Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., de Boer, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 62(2), 341-356.

[6]  SafeWork NSW. (2017). Review of evidence of psychosocial risks for mental ill-health in the workplace.

[7] Britton, A., & Shipley, M. J. (2010). Bored to death?. International Journal of Epidemiology, 39(2), 370-371.

The Centre for Transformative Work Design is a Research Centre where passionate organisational psychology researchers and professionals are working together to transform work.

We conduct high quality, independent and innovative research to understand the role of work design in generating healthy and productive work. Alongside this, we work with managers, employees and policy makers to create healthier lives, unlock human capability and support a skilled economy.

Contact Us

Location: 

Centre for Transformative Work Design

Future of Work Institute

Curtin Graduate School of Business 

78 Murray Street, Perth WA 6000


Telephone: +61 8 9266 4668


Email: ctwd@curtin.edu.au

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