Preventing Burnout: Job Crafting

Burnout is more than exhaustion. In addition to becoming tired, people lose their enthusiasm for their work. They want more distance from the expectations, obligations, and demands of worklife. A bit of distance is a useful part of constructive relationships with work, but it can be overdone. Then, people become cynical about their work. They lose hope in their future and doubt the significance of what they can contribute. They distance themselves from their work psychologically by reducing their attention and emotional involvement. They distance themselves physically by more frequent absences and by actively seeking other employment.

Job crafting avoids this form of disengagement by emphasizing the more enjoyable parts of a job while de-emphasizing the tedium. As described by Maria Tims and Arnold Bakker, job crafting occurs when employees take an active role in changing the balance of demands and resources in their jobs. They shift their focus to areas that are better suited not only to their skills but also to their values,

A core assumption of job crafting is that employees fail to exploit fully the latitude they have in shaping their jobs. They assume that the parameters of their jobs are more rigid than they actually are. Instead, jobs have some degree of flexibility. Job descriptions often include a complex range of specific activities with only general guidelines of the relative amount of time employees must devote to each element. Further, jobs often have more demands than employees can possibly fulfill in the course of their work day. Something has to give. From a job crafting perspective, employees choose to emphasize the fulfilling parts of their work.

One potential downside of job crafting is that one individual’s job crafting can increase the work demands on other members of the team. This kind of imbalance can prompt resentment and pressures to revert to the previous way of working. Team level job crafting can avoid this pitfall. Employees consider how to rebalance their work patterns to find a better mix between tedium and fulfilling activities.

What To Do

    • Make a List. What are the high return and low return activities within your job? Focus on legitimate parts of your job. Give each element a rating on a 1 (low return) to 10 (high return). How many minutes do you devote to each activity on a normal day?

    • Make an Objective. Identify one high return element that you want to increase and one low return that you want to decrease.

    • Make a Strategy. Lay out a specific plan for shifting a bit of your work time towards the high return activity.

    • Implement that Strategy.

    • Assess. So, how is it going? The first thing to track is the time: are you devoting more time to the high return activity? The second thing to track is how do you feel about your work.

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