The work is dependent to a large extent on the number of hours worked, the pace of working and the pattern of work assignment. A satisfactory working environment is both an environment free from accident risks and physical and mental stress, and an environment that has been adapted to the needs and limitations of man.
It should also allow employees to participate actively in designing their own workplaces and duties. In this manner, the ground is prepared for personal involvement, personal development and pleasure in one’s work.
Quality of working life
In our daily working life, the way work is done and scheduled is fundamental. When a worker’s skills and abilities do not match the job, or when schedules of work do not leave sufficient time for rest and leisure, serious problems arise for both the worker and the employing organisation.
The pattern of work organisation, which has a direct influence on job content, largely determine whether work is arduous or enhancing, unpleasant or satisfying. The duration of work every day, every month, every year and for the whole of our working life can also greatly affect the safety, health and value of our daily life.
Work organisation and job content
Technological change in modern society has also changed the way individual jobs are performed. Organisation of work, including use of skills, control over work and communications, has been greatly affected by a high degree of the division of labour. It was assumed that job characteristics were predetermined by technical and economic considerations. Managers were supposed to find the “one best way” to define jobs. The idea was to break the work up into task and assign each worker the simplest possible combination of tasks.
It was often thought that in order to make sure any worker could do the work, it was necessary to design tasks that call for minimum skills. However, if our jobs do not provide the possibility for developing useful skills and self-respect, we can all too often lose our sense of self-esteem. Such jobs are not very productive, either. We now know that better jobs can be provided by improved methods of work organisation. These methods are important not only because they improve jobs from the workers’ point of view, but because they lead to higher productivity and better use of technology.
Poorly organised work
Before considering how jobs can be improved, we should consider some of the disadvantages of work which is poorly organised like:
- Oversimplified jobs require little skill and provide few opportunities to learn anything useful. The worker is underutilized.
- Repetitive jobs are monotonous and boring.
- Jobs which have no possibilities for co-operation are isolated.
- Jobs which do not allow for learning or growth limit the workers’ career possibilities.
- Jobs which have no real responsibilities require continuous supervision.
- Jobs where performance is measured by repetition of a simple task are frustrating and stressful.
Poor management can create bad atmosphere and do much to undermine the feeling of job satisfaction. Changes are needed if we are to create a working situation that guarantees job satisfaction and a feeling of wellbeing at work.
Poor work organisation is bad for the worker and for the enterprise. Workers must have a chance to develop and use skills if they are to contribute fully to production goals. Treating workers like machines ignores their potential and creates a dissatisfied, unproductive work atmosphere. The planning of job assignments should be based on a clear understanding of the aspects of work.
An emphasis on physical environmental factors must be supplemented by a knowledge of the social and psychological climate at the workplace and its influence on the individual’s sense of well-being, his health and the quality of his life.
Job content, work organization and the forms of cooperation are particularly important factors in terms of job satisfaction.
A good job
To improve work organisation and job content, it is useful to consider the characteristics of good jobs free from excessive stress, fatigue or pressure. The right tools equipment, supplies and assistance and enough time to do good work will be necessary.
A good job should have
Variety and a reasonable work cycle.
Some choices to make about the work with knowledge about and responsibility for results.
Opportunities for communication and support among fellow workers.
Enough skill for self-respect and the respect of others.
Arrangements for continuous in-service training.
These conditions will make a job more challenging. In most cases, they require changes in shop-floor organisation, communication and layout and job relations. There is always the danger of increasing the work intensity excessively. This can result in increased occupational stress. But experience shows that machine-paced, boring jobs are more stressful than mentally challenging jobs, and that strictly controlled operators show greater symptoms of stress than operators with expanded autonomy.
This does not mean that a good job is the same for all workers. Workers have different backgrounds, skills and preferences. Their personal strength or weaknesses and attitudes towards work are also different.