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Job demands

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

Work or job demands - high and low - are one of the most common sources of workplace stress and psychological harm.


Workers who experience high job demands such as excessive workloads, resource constraints or time pressures can often feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. Those experiencing low job demands, such as repetitive or monotonous tasks, may feel bored, disengaged or underutilised. Sustained high or low levels of job demands are more likely to cause psychological and physical harm, particularly when combined with low levels of support and/or other psychosocial risks.

The impact of high job demands is mediated by receiving high levels of support from managers and co-workers. Where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate or adequately minimise high job demands – for example, in the case of frontline responders – it is even more critical to provide high levels of support that can cushion the impact of demands. Where workers perceive support levels to be low and job demands to be high the risk of harm to health increases significantly.

When job demands are in balance with our individual capability and capacity they are an important part of our work and help to give us meaning, purpose, motivation and a sense of achievement.

What are job demands?

There are many different types of job demands that can be harmful. Some of the most common are:

Time

  • Unrealistic timeframes or time pressures
  • Long work hours or shift work

Cognitive

  • Highly repetitive or monotonous tasks (low)
  • Long periods of vigilance for infrequent events (high)
  • Complex or challenging decision making (high)
  • Low role clarity (high)

Workload

  • Long periods of insufficient work (low)
  • Unrealistic or unachievable amounts of work (high)

Physical

  • Sitting or standing for long periods
  • Unpleasant or hazardous conditions (for example, hazardous chemicals or dangerous equipment)

Emotional

  • Responding to distressing or emotional situations
  • Managing other people’s emotions
  • Suppressing emotions or displaying false emotions

Environmental

  • Remote and isolated work
  • Poor environmental conditions (for example, extreme temperatures or noise, air quality)

Risk factors for job demands

Risk factors cover two categories:

How the work is organised (Context)

  • Organisational function and culture
  • Leadership
  • Organisational change management
  • Interpersonal relationships at work
  • Role in organisation
  • Career development
  • Decision latitude and control
  • Resource allocation.

What the job involves (Content)

  • Work environment and equipment
  • Task design
  • Workload
  • Work schedules
  • Worker skills, capabilities and training.

Resources on job demands

Job demands has been identified as a hazard in the Model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work.

This guidance will help you meet your obligation under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011.

Page last reviewed: 26 June 2024

Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 18 Jul 2024

https://www.comcare.gov.au/safe-healthy-work/prevent-harm/psychosocial-hazards/job-demands