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The Right Ingredients for Any Job

by Neil Neary ASEBP | September 8 2016

We all have a sense of how challenging our jobs are and many of us might look enviously at others and think, “I sure wish I had that job…it looks so easy!” But how well do any of us really understand what it is that makes a job easy or difficult?

Looking at what makes a job easy or hard is a valuable exercise. It can help us better understand our own job—and the context we work in—and allows us to make informed changes to improve our lives and that of our working groups. Even more importantly, it can help us understand and empathize with our colleagues, which gives us the knowledge needed to offer social support—a major contributor to making a job more manageable.

Recipe for Success

Most of the workplace wellness professionals I’ve worked with agree that the Demand-Control-Support (D-C-S) model provides a helpful framework for people to understand their job and the jobs of their colleagues. Developed by Robert Karasek, the D-C-S model proposes that job difficulty is composed of three elements: the demand of the job, the amount of control the employee has over how the job is done and the support one receives from colleagues. I’ve used this topic teaching classes, hosting lunch-and-learns and even in one-on-one coaching. Everyone wants to know about their job and while there is real value in that exercise, the true value comes when a workplace develops a shared understanding of work amongst the team and creates a supportive culture.

Here’s a breakdown of the important D-C-S concepts that can guide a discussion with your group:

  • Demand: You know where you give more effort in your role but do you know what your teammates go through? Take some time to talk about the physical and psychological demands of people’s work. This will help you understand their workloads and stresses in their roles.
  • Control: This refers to the amount of leeway people are given to perform their job. Do they have decision-making authority over how things get done? Being flexible with teammates as managers and colleagues can go a long way to setting a team up for success. Talk about what controls each of your teammates has in their role so you can all pin-point areas for improvement in approval processes, find efficiencies and allow for more creativity in the workplace.
  • Support: Social support has a huge impact on how easy or hard a job is perceived to be and it is often the easiest thing to improve. Support means that you are working with colleagues who understand you, your work and when you might need some help. The key is generating opportunities for teams to get to know each other better. It can be as simple as a team huddle, a technique I've seen applied effectively in some incredibly difficult healthcare environments, or weekly coffee meet-ups. Find some time to spend with your team to open up those communication channels and get a better perspective on the roadblocks and wins within your group.

Better understanding our jobs helps us better understand ourselves and those around us, leading to the development of that oh-so-important social support structure. Use the breakdown above to help you and your colleagues recognize each other’s efforts in order to create the ultimate environment for workplace success. From time to time, we all need to get by with a little help from our friends and isn’t it so much easier when our friends just seem to be there when we need them?

Neil Neary

Soup to nuts, 'Doogie,' or Neil as we know him at ASEBP, has worn many health promotion hats in his day, from that of a practicing chiropractor to a provincial health care-planning savant and formerly as ASEBP’s stakeholder relations liaison. Neil is a human treasure chest for random facts and equipped to tackle almost anything—except if it’s over shark-infested water—or over high bridges above said shark-infested water.