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What is job crafting and should we all be doing it?

Article written by Lauren Payne

“The perfect job may not exist, but we can definitely get close by adopting a job crafting mentality.”

If you’re not really a fan of your job and you’ve found yourself disassociating at your desk one too many times, it may be time for a change. Now, when I say change, I don’t necessarily mean you need to pack up and leave the job you already have.

I’m talking more about changing aspects of your role to make your job more enjoyable. I’m talking about a little thing called job crafting. Job crafting is the act of moulding your work to suit your individual interests, needs and working style. The aim is to improve your relationship to your job, increase your job satisfaction and nurture your well-being at work.

The term job crafting was first introduced to the world of psychology by organisational psychologist Dr Gavin Slemp in 2016. However, the actual act of job crafting has been happening throughout Australian workplaces for decades. When someone decides to take initiative, or ‘work smarter, not harder’ they’re job crafting, they just may not know it yet. There are three common types of job crafting: task crafting, cognitive crafting and relational crafting. Task crafting involves changing the way you approach daily tasks while you’re at work, or even the tasks themselves. Relational crafting involves changing the way you interact with the people you work with, and cognitive crafting involves adjusting your workload. If all of this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve done it before.

Dr Amanda Ferguson, an organisational psychologist and host of the Psych for Life podcast, says that since the pandemic began in 2020, there’s been a significant rise in job crafting. This is because while under strict lockdown rules, many employees were able to think about the aspects of their job they don’t enjoy, and how to improve them. “The existential crisis we’re all going through following the pandemic, and lockdowns, means that all of those things like the great resignation and the great reshuffle, show people want more for themselves. Organisations need to bend, and work harder to keep their employees, because they will walk. “They are walking. Particularly people who’ve found better ways of working through job crafting during the pandemic – they want to continue [doing it]. They’ve got the results, they’ve produced better, done better and organisational results are better with hybrid work, for instance. That’s job crafting!”

A study conducted by the University of South Australia found that the more workers are able to craft their job to suit their individual strengths, values and needs, the happier they are and the harder they’re willing to work.

The link between job satisfaction and employee wellbeing is becoming more and more apparent and Dr Ferguson says that the more people feel they can adjust their jobs to suit them, the better the result will be not just for the employee, but for the organisation as a whole. “It’s a win-win for the organisation to have employees that love and like their job, and if they’re shaping it so that it’s more of a reflection on who they are [and] they’re getting better results… they’re more likely going to stay in the job. “They’re going to be a better employee, they’re going to be a better potential employee for the next job, and so it’s helping their career grow, it’s helping them move in the direction they might want to be going in… and it works well for the organisation. It’s something employees are going to want.”

By now you’re probably thinking that this job crafting thing sounds pretty good, right? You’re not exactly thrilled with your job, and you want to make it better for yourself, so how do you get started? How does someone start job crafting?

Well, Dr Ferguson suggests thinking about the things you currently aren’t enthusiastic about at work, and whether you could make them more engaging. If you’re not a fan of creating Excel spreadsheets full of data, see if you can put the data in an infographic, so you can present the data in a more aesthetically pleasing way, and utilise your graphic design skills. Think about things you enjoy doing and see if there’s a way to inject them into your daily work routine. Then, once you have your ideas, chat to your team to find out whether you’re able to make the changes you want to make. “Talk to superiors and colleagues, like managers, bosses, and team members to workshop this stuff. In organisational psychology, the relationship between the employee and the organisation is the success predictor, so definitely make it part of the discussion, whether it’s weekly meetings, team meetings, or chats with the boss, colleagues, or peers,” she explains. She also suggests that managers and organisations start promoting job crafting within their teams and letting their employees know that they do have the option to start job crafting if they’d like to. Many people may not realise they’re able to make improvements to their work situation. So, by letting their employees know the option is there, organisations can encourage employees to make any necessary changes to make work more comfortable for them, and more engaging. “Organisations need to be careful about how they bring it into the organisation and how they promote it, so that it’s not discriminating, or seeming like it’s an extra thing instead of something that’s always been around. “A lot of people will freak out and think that it’s something else they need to do in their job, as well as all of their tasks and everything else. But if they can see that it’s something they can learn, that it’s going to make them feel appreciated, but also enjoy their work more – love it and like it more – that’s it’s a win for them and [it’ll work].”

Job crafting is an incredible way to make a job you may not exactly find thrilling, become more exciting to you. Everyone is different and not everyone approaches their work in the same way, even when they may be in the same role within the same organisation. While one person may enjoy presenting information and speaking to a group, another person may find more joy designing the presentation and putting their creative stamp on an otherwise mind-numbing PowerPoint.

The perfect job may not exist, but we can definitely get close by adopting a job crafting mentality. Just a few tweaks to the way you do your work could make all the difference. For more on job crafting, try this.

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