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, can often feel disengaged or underutilised.
What are job demands?
Review the examples of common job demands (high and low) that can negatively impact your workers psychological and physical health.
- Unrealistic timeframes or time pressures
- Long work hours or shift work
- Highly repetitive or monotonous tasks (low)
- Long periods of vigilance for infrequent events (high)
- Complex or challenging decision making (high)
- Low role clarity (high)
- Long periods of insufficient work (low)
- Unrealistic or unachievable amounts of work (high)
- Sitting or standing for long periods
- Unpleasant or hazardous conditions (for example, hazardous chemicals or dangerous equipment)
- Remote and isolated work
- Poor environmental conditions (for example, extreme temperatures or noise, air quality)
Impact of job demands
- Anger or mood swings
- Problems sleeping
- Diminished performance
- Disengaged or withdrawn from work.
- Poor workplace culture
- Negative or strained work-team relations and team dynamics
- Increased worker injury and illness
- Reduced productivity
- Higher employee turnover
- Increased absenteeism
- Complaints from customers or clients.
Risk factors for job demands
Risk factors cover two categories:
How the work is organised (Context)
- Organisational function and culture
- 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
- Work schedules
- Worker skills, capabilities and training.
How to manage the risks of job demands
Employers should take a systematic approach to managing psychosocial risks and promoting worker psychological health and safety, including preventing harm, intervening early and supporting recovery.
- Identify work-related hazards and risks.
- Consult with workers and their representatives and encourage feedback.
- Assess risks and implement effective control measures.
- Ensure there is good work design and safe systems of work.
- Provide workers with the training, information and supervision they need to do their job safely and well.
- Maintain, monitor and review control measures and revise if necessary.
- If a review shows control measures are not effective, take action to identify and implement additional controls.
- Support workers showing signs of work-related stress by modifying their work and giving them access to counselling and extra workplace support.
- Provide early assistance for those with an increased risk of injury.
- Provide early assistance and support to access treatment and rehabilitation services, generally from the time a claim is lodged.
- Support timely and sustainable recovery at work (RAW) or return to work (RTW) through effective consultation, addressing any remaining work-related hazards and risks that may exacerbate the existing work-related psychological injury or cause a new injury.
How to control job demands
- Ensure staffing levels align with expected outputs and workers have enough time to complete tasks.
- Give workers the opportunity to provide input into work pace and timing.
- Set realistic and achievable targets.
- Monitor workloads during peak periods, such as Christmas holiday season.
- Regularly review workloads to ensure workers have sufficient support.
- Encourage workers to speak up at an early stage if they feel their workload is excessive.
Cognitive or emotional demands
- Rotate tasks and schedules where possible to provide job variety, and to lessen the impact of repetitive and monotonous tasks.
- Provide training to leaders to ensure they are competent and confident to have conversations about mental health and wellbeing, and work-related risks.
- Give workers some control over the way they do their work, including work pace and order of tasks.
- Have support systems in place for workers that make complex or difficult decisions, for example, a second person to assist.
- Provide training and ongoing support to workers on how to diffuse difficult or confronting situations.
- Allow regular breaks and rotate repetitive manual tasks between employees where possible.
- Make the physical environment as comfortable as possible, such as changes to the workstation, equipment, or the way the job is done.
- Substitute heavy manual tasks with machinery to reduce physical workloads where practicable.
- Ensure workers are well trained and physically capable of doing the work.
Resources on job demands
- Managing work demands checklist (PDF, 279.7 KB) is a starting point for employers, managers, supervisors, and workers to prevent and manage the risks of job demands.
- Practical guidance for Employers: Work demands set the standard (PDF, 4.5 MB) will help you understand and identify work-related stress, then proactively eliminate, reduce, and manage the risks to prevent harm to workers.
- Practical guidance for Managers and Supervisors: Work demands set the standard (PDF, 3.5 MB) will help supervisors understand and identify work-related stress, then take action to eliminate, reduce, and manage the risks to prevent harm to workers.
- Practical guidance for Workers: Work demands set the standard (PDF, 4.0 MB) will help workers understand work-related stress so they can report early issues and concerns and identify how harm can be prevented.
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.
Training on psychological health and safety
Training on mentally healthy workplaces
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