Being in a job is good for wellbeing. Being in a ‘high quality’ job is even better for us*.
By high quality, we don’t mean a certain skill level, type or industry. It’s about what makes a job worthwhile for us. Things like:
- how secure it is
- the social connections we have
- the ability to use and develop our skills
- clear responsibilities
- opportunities to have a say in a supportive workplace.
Evidence is clear that such characteristics are significant for our wellbeing at work. If we move into a role with none, or fewer, of these elements, our life satisfaction drops. Even when we move out of unemployment and into work, how big an impact this has on our wellbeing depends on the quality of the job.
A good job is important, but the evidence shows that attempts to improve job quality through job redesign often fail. What needs to happen alongside job redesign to allow organisations to improve wellbeing and performance?
Your self worth can really be affected if you’re not enjoying your job
What are the key findings?
Where you see the following symbols it indicates:
strongWe can be confident that the evidence can be used to inform decisions.
promisingWe have moderate confidence. Decision makers may wish to incorporate further information to inform decisions.
initialWe have low confidence. Decision makers may wish to incorporate further information to inform decisions.
Giving people training to develop personal resources, skills, or problem solving, so they are able to make their own jobs better may have positive effects on wellbeing. and in some cases may improve performance.
Changes to ways of working, such as office layout or job design, alongside training, may improve wellbeing and in some cases may improve performance.
How can training improve job quality?
- Training can offer staff the space to think about and discuss what is important or problematic in their job.
- It can develop understanding of, and provide the space to think about, how things could be improved, or how their job could be more rewarding.
- Training can develop skills, to be able to, for example, take on more responsibility or a more varied workload.
- Training may develop team or personal capacity to provide emotional support. With this knowledge, staff can make changes themselves to improve their own jobs.
The following types of training for job quality showed wellbeing impacts:
Is one approach more cost effective than another?
Changing workplaces or job design alongside training may be a more expensive way per person to improve wellbeing than training alone.
However, theory suggests that this option is likely to have greater positive impacts on wellbeing and performance. The initial evidence may support this. Forthcoming analysis will compare cost effectiveness across workplace interventions.
Examples with published evaluations include:
How do the costs stack up?
This is likely to be the most expensive option, but can lead to significant savings and improvements in performance. Initial estimates suggest that organisations can have a return on investment, in terms of performance, within six to twelve months. Further analysis comparing cost effectiveness of actions and their wellbeing impact will be published later in 2017.
Examples with published evaluations include:
How can we turn this evidence into action?
- be aware of the importance of job quality for wellbeing;
- find out what staff see as important for improving the quality of their work;
- ensure that line and middle managers are committed to improving jobs;
- take the action which will best fit the needs of staff and circumstances.
Some improvements in job quality may be possible only through training staff to manage their own wellbeing, others may require significant changes in business systems.
To be most effective when carrying out these actions, managers can make sure:
- changes are integrated with other business systems;
- staff know that the changes are being introduced for their own health and wellbeing, even if that is only one goal of the changes;
- staff, managers and others are consulted and remain committed through the process.
Trade unions and professional bodies can:
make managers aware of importance of job quality and the ways to improve the quality of work. Unions and professional bodies can consider the levers to encourage higher
quality work and supportive management practices. This may include guidance and training for employers and managers – but could also include accreditation.
Policy makers could:
create incentives for employers to develop high quality work, as well as guidance on how to do so. The Health and Safety Executive recommend improving jobs through their
Management Standards for Work-Related Stress. The Standards can be adapted to include the actions outlined in this briefing.