by Janne Kaltiainen and Jari Hakanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Finland
What parts of my work do I find motivating, engaging and most beneficial for my well-being? What can I do to get more of these things in my work?
After beginning to feel stressed, slightly bored and “in a rut” at work, a nurse with a long career and strong professional expertise began to ask herself these questions. The answers to these questions led her to begin mentoring some of her younger colleagues, helping her to feel more competent in her work and more connected to her colleagues, and to again find meaning in her day to day routines. This small change to the way she did her job improved her work-related well-being, and importantly, did not harm the overall operation and effectiveness of the hospital. Rather, her colleagues felt better supported through this mentorship and the overall atmosphere at work improved.
What is job crafting?
This example is one of the numerous and simple ways that employees might craft their jobs. The process this nurse undertook is one example of “job crafting”, which is about employee-initiated ways to improve work and working conditions in order to benefit one’s well-being and mental health. The fundamental idea is that by making simple, conscious changes to some aspects of the work, that work will better align with important sources of well-being and motivation.
Whether you are crafting your own job or counseling a patient on how to craft theirs, research shows that there are several useful possibilities for changing one’s work via job crafting. One option is to learn new things and develop oneself professionally. For example, if I regularly meet patients and we lack a common language, could it provide more rewarding communication and add meaning to my daily work if I learned some of the language my patients can use?
How to do job crafting?
Finding new challenging projects and trying out new ways of working may also combat excessive routinization and boredom at work. This can be done by identifying things that were initially engaging and motivating in one’s job. Perhaps there is a possibility to be among the first to voluntarily test a new software due to be launched in the whole organization. By volunteering to do something that will later become mandatory, one might find the effort more pleasant and more rewarding in terms of one’s professional competence.
Promoting social resources by changing the frequency and quality of interactions with colleagues and stakeholders (e.g., customers, patients) can also lead to better wellbeing and meaningfulness at work. For instance, if I yearn for feedback from my supervisor, I could ask for such feedback. As a supervisor, I could also pay better attention to the needs of the employees, show interest in them, and more frequently ask how they are doing. Social resources may also be promoted in everyday interactions with colleagues, such as by showing consideration to others, asking how they are doing, and having conversations about non-work-related matters.
What are the benefits?
In addition, the meaningfulness of one’s work may be fostered by recalling why the work that one does is valuable for others, such as for patients, colleagues, or society at large. I may have felt frustration and insufficiency at work during the pandemic but reminding myself of everything positive that was accomplished during the highly demanding times, rather than focusing only on aspects that were not achieved, may provide a sense of engagement and meaning at work.
Although job crafting is typically done by an individual, work teams can also come together to identify their strengths, craft their individual jobs and collaboratively develop ways of optimally functioning as a team. By finding new ways to support each other, including supervisors and subordinates, the team can become more resilient and thus maintain their well-being during hardships and challenging times.
These examples of job crafting are practical and doable for many to improve one’s work conditions and thus one’s well-being. The accumulated research knowledge from work and organizational psychology suggests that by crafting one’s work tasks, the ways work is done, and social relationships at work, it is possible to improve one’s conditions at work and thus foster one’s well-being and mental health. Job crafting is even possible under highly demanding working conditions and can mitigate the negative impacts of high workload and emotional demands on employee well-being. While the primary goal of job crafting is to improve well-being at work, job crafting is also associated with other valuable outcomes like increased effectiveness and organizational commitment as positive byproducts. By supporting everyday leadership practices and proactive job crafting, employees can build healthy, meaningful, and productive work experiences in healthcare settings and beyond.
- What do I actually do at my job? Start job crafting by listing all the major and minor tasks you do and people you interact with at work. This offers an overview of your current job and a starting place for crafting it.
- What inspires me? From this list, mark the tasks, ways of working, interactions and people that you find most inspiring, engaging and rewarding at work, regardless of how big or small their role is currently at your work.
- How can I increase the inspiring parts of my job? Of those marked aspects, choose one to three of the most inspiring to focus on. Then, brainstorm ways you could add more of those elements to your work. For example, would you need to have more contact with colleagues? Start trying new working practices? Or try learning a new skill?
- What to change and when? Plan! Make a concrete plan regarding the things you chose to change or do differently. How and when will you put the plan into action, and how will you track the progress of your personal job crafting project?
- Starting small may help. Old routines, hurry and haste can make it difficult to learn new ways of working through job crafting. Be patient! Making work better takes time and starting with minor improvements can help you to build your efficacy as a job crafter.