SMART Work has Tolerable Demands

The last letter in the SMART work framework stands for Tolerable demands.


This refers to the extent to which a job involves time pressure, emotional demands and role conflict. 

Time pressure refers to the degree to which an adequate amount of time is provided to complete your work. Emotional demands describes the degree to which your work creates emotionally demanding situations. Finally, role conflict refers to the extent to which feedback, instruction and demands are inconsistent.

Whilst some jobs will be more difficult than others from a physical or cognitive perspective, there is always a need for these demands to be at a tolerable level.

Characteristics of Tolerable Demands

A job with tolerable demands would likely involve:

  • a manageable work load with reasonable time pressure and work hours

  • work with manageable emotional, mental or other pressures that create challenge without unnecessary strain

  • work without excessively conflicting expectations or instructions

“Our staff don't have to worry about data input - that's all automated. They just monitor analysis, the good stuff not the boring stuff.”

- Tech Company Co-Founder

Characteristics of Untolerable Demands

In contrast, jobs that are less tolerable are likely to:

  • not have enough time allocated to complete the required tasks

  • contain tasks that are too cognitively or emotionally challenging for individuals, leading  to a sense of burnout

  • conflicting feedback and instructions with a high degree of unnecessary ambiguity

"The job itself is not hard but volume wise, you're feeling so drained at the end of the day."

-Finance Officer

What Are the Risks of a Job

With Untolerable Demands?

All work involves demands because there are goals to achieve, and effort must be put in to achieve these goals. When demands are challenging and present at appropriate levels (and supported by adequate resources) they can increase employee engagement [1]. However, demands become problematic when the level of demand exceeds the individual’s ability to meet those demands [2].


Roles with intolerable job demands carry risks for both individuals as well as organisations:


Employees can experience high levels of job stress, home-work conflict, and increased risk of making mistakes. Moreover, an intolerable job can have a negative impact on mental health and increase the risk to develop anxiety, depression and burnout [3]. It can also impact physical health, as intolerable jobs are associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases.

For organisations, the risks of jobs with intolerable demands include higher accident rates, turnover, presenteeism and absenteeism, as well as less a greater number of workers’ compensation claims and slower return to work after an injury or illness [4].

'Tolerable Demands' in Action


[1] Van den Broeck, A., De Cuyper, N., De Witte, H., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2010). Not all job demands are equal: Differentiating job hindrances and job challenges in the Job Demands-Resources model. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 19(6), 735 -759.

[2] Bakker, A. B., Hakanen, J. J., Demerouti, E., & Xanthopoulou, D. (2007). Job resources boost work engagement, particularly when job demands are high. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(2), 274-284.

[3] Harvey, S. B., Modini, M., Joyce, S., Milligan-Saville, J. S., Tan, L., Mykletun, A., … & Mitchell, P. B. (2017). Can work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problems. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 74(4), 301-310.

[4]  Hakanen, J. J., Scaufeli, W. B., & Ahola, K. (2008). The job demands-resources model: A three-year cross-lagged study of burnout, depression, commitment and work engagement. Work and Stress, 22(3), 224-241.

[5] Ardito, Chiara & Leombruni, Roberto & Pacelli, Lia & d'Errico, Angelo. (2012). Eurofound. Health and Well-being at Work: A Report Based on the Fifth European Working Conditions Survey. Dublin, Ireland: Eurofound.

[6]  Dahl, M. S. (2011). Organizational change and employee stress. Management Science, 57(2), 240-256.

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


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


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