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Good Work Design

Good Work Design creates healthful, engaging, and productive work. It involves astute leadership; learning about the human tasks, equipment, environment, work systems, and governance; identifying what supports and sustains good work through co-design; and understanding what impedes performance and the warning signs (knowing when things go “wrong” and what you might notice when this happens!). This tells us about the opportunities to design for the best possible working conditions.

The human-centred methods are explained by this diagram, developed by our Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFESA, 2020) as a rendition of the reflections of concepts through images that we created at ViVA. Refer to the HFESA long and short position papers.

Good Work Design Experience

Good Work occurs by design – a systematic approach to enquire, engage, and connect with workers to understand what they do, how they do it, what resources are needed, in which environments, with whom, and how it could be done better. DESIGN is a way of thinking and a practice, and Good Work Design involves empathising with workers to co-create a better world.  

Learn more about the methods of good work design through our Good Work Design Experience.

Glossary of Terms

This combines fit‐out design with branding strategy so that the immersion in that space (for internal or external customers) is imbued by the messaging of the organisation about their values and approaches. For example, a tech company may use steel and timber in design with high‐tech interactive story boards and virtual reality experiences in relaxation or
break‐out rooms. A business that promotes environmental sustainability may be expressed by biophilic design (the presence of plants or symbols of nature) and interactive lighting boards that appear like moving waterfalls to inspire creativity in the workspace

This is a nuanced approach to work design stemming from an in‐depth analysis of the type of work that is undertaken and the needs of the present and future (imagined or targeted) work cohorts. The task nature, and percentage of time allocated to perform these tasks, are considered to determine the space that is needed, the design of that space, and the real estate footprint

Provides flexibility and fluidity to an individuals or teams’ approaches to work and can refer to work methods, schedules, occupancy, technology interface, or access to different equipment and tools. Typically, this is a whole‐of-business approach and reflects a significant cultural shift. It implies more autonomy in decision making about the work approach and it suggests iterative, adaptive, constant changes to work. Some examples include:

  • Choice of workspace to use (hot‐desking and free‐addressing)
  • Flexible working (per work hours or location, such as home or café)
  • Use of adjustable height desks that are quick to adjust (cantilevered), not requiring a power grid, so that the office furniture configuration can be  readily changed
  • USB ports and power outlets integrated in the office equipment (such as monitor stands) and readily available to charge and interact with technology devices 
  • Spatial collaboration technology to permit visual, immersive interface of a work area by remote location  
  • Project approaches where the discovery, definition, and development phases occur in a continuous loop with the communication, measurement, and delivery phases while feedback is sought from users and subject matter experts. This enables iterative approaches to product or system release, versus high‐entrant costs of near-perfect
    commercial deliverables

Aspects related to the management of perceived information which involve processes of attention, memory, concentration, and decision making, and result in outputs of problem solving, communication, planning, judgment, and strategy development.

An interactive, agile management process to consider desired operating states, factors that erode these states, and the necessary business inputs to optimise a human-equipment work system

A strategic and systematic approach to address the needs of people at work in an inclusive way. It results in the creation of manageable, meaningful, easily understood, and effective work, constructed from a rich understanding of the uniqueness of people. It is based on how people act or think. The approach engages people, solves problems, and leverages opportunities to innovate and prosper (This speaks to “HOW”).

The organisation of work not constrained by geographic boundaries (where it is done) that can be flexible in terms of temporal commitments (i.e., when it is done) &/or contractual relations around who performs the work (i.e., how it is done and by whom).

Distinctive characteristics, traits, and/or capabilities of people that reflect different needs, motivations, and/or manners of thinking or acting in a workplace (This speaks to, “WHAT is”).

A holistic approach to consider how people work best. This flips “fatigue management” programs that might focus downstream on risk management (containment) and work scheduling, and integrates upstream design strategies that ensure that work is conditioning, fortifying, and sustaining (i.e., not just a work schedule, but maybe a task could be better designed, leadership strategies better articulated, neurodiverse needs considered, or technology enhanced so that frustrations are eased and enjoyment is fostered)

The “science of work” – a scientific discipline devoted to the understanding of humans, their work, and their interactions within a work system (physical and social environment). The profession that applies theoretical principles, data, and methods of design to fit the work to the human, optimising well-being, and performance. The terms “ergonomics” and “human factors” are often used interchangeably.

A term used in industrial agreements to accommodate an individual’s need for an alternative working pattern to a traditional single‐office, 9am – 5pm, five‐day week business norm. The accommodation may include work‐from‐home scenarios or a
variation to scheduled work hours, for example. Good design of flexible work includes work that is customisable, offers hybrid strategies, is safe, and is inclusive. 

Office space allocation for a team or work cohort that may not be otherwise
assigned to a specific geographic location (office or branch) or workspace within these locations (e.g. safety advisors with a large territory supporting multiple
regional branches)

A healthy and safe work situation where the hazards and risks are eliminated or minimised and where the work design promotes wellbeing and productivity.

An inclusive organisational approach that engages people in discovery, design, and realisation stages of work strategy to ensure that human work requirements, job roles, and tasks are considered, and design is leveraged to ensure prosperous working conditions with sustainable outcomes.

A state of mind and emotional, spiritual and/or physical expression of vitality

A work practice encouraging the use of unassigned, public‐use desks so that any
person on premise might use one when needed. This practice is predicated on the
assumption that workers do not need to be in an office (one location) at any one time (e.g. on‐road sales consultants)

An approach that promotes usability by focusing on the needs and capabilities of humans – the methods centre on the analysis of tasks, job roles, and work or social systems, and are underpinned by ergonomics, human factors, usability, and customer experience (with a focus on internal customers).

The way in which humans interact in a system to achieve productive outcomes and their different approaches, decisions, and actions that arise. This considers the work requirements of the application of human knowledge, skills, abilities, decision making, heuristics, tactics, situation awareness, interpersonal, and intrapersonal capabilities.

The consideration of human capabilities into the design of the equipment and work system lifecycle.

A workstructure in which employees divide work space/place time per the office and remotely. Typically, this term refers to remote work while at home, a binary consideration (two options: office or home). Hybrid meetings may involve some attending per the office and others video conferencing/dialling in from home

A welcoming cultural framework and the practices that reflect the beliefs, values, and actions undertaken by an organisation to recognise, accept, attract, adapt, accommodate, monitor, measure, learn from, and strategically plan for diversity in the workforce (This speaks to “WHY”).

The worker’s degree of autonomy or decision authority over tasks that they perform.

Aspects of a job that require physical or mental effort. A certain level of demand is beneficial to psychological or physical well-being; a level too low or too high can have the inverse effect, causing negative outcomes.

A generic term used in the architectural and design industry to describe a floor plan that accommodates workers, their activities, and their workstations within a large, shared‐use, open space. 

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM)

Design for Operability and Maintainability Analysis Technique.

A person or group of people that has its own functions with responsibilities, authorities, and relationships to achieve its objectives; actions are reflected by values and shaped by the culture.

A co-design approach that discharges the obligation of the duty holder in Australian workforce legislation to consult with and involve workers in the design of their work.

The mental processing and emotional regulation that underpin and affect the mechanisms of memory formation and retrieval, logic, ideation, planning, problem solving, general thinking, and execution of ideas.

The emotive and social interactions and experiences of humans, considering the work environment, organisational conditions, and workers’ capacities and perceptions. Aspects may include the perceived levels of autonomy, agency, protection, work-life balance, civility, respect, manageable workload, culture, climate, recognition, and reward. They influence worker health, performance, and satisfaction.

A consideration of the likelihood and severity of psychosocial disorders that can arise from work exposures, should the exposures exceed the threshold tolerances of an individual. There may be acute (immediate to short-term) or cumulative (longer-term) exposures, and an interaction of factors can escalate the risk. Psychological risks for mental health disorders are often compounded by and/or can lead to adverse physical factors too. They require management as any other occupational risk factor.

A consideration of the likelihood and severity of physical disorders that can arise from work exposures, should the exposures exceed the threshold tolerances of an individual. There may be acute (immediate to short-term) or cumulative (longer-term) exposures and responses, and an interaction of factors can escalate the risk. Physical risks for musculoskeletal disorders, for example, are often compounded by and/or can lead to adverse psychological factors too. They require management as any other occupational risk factor.

The ecological systems that sustain, support, and reinforce quality work performance. Resilience refers to a work system (including the human interface with equipment, the environment, workflow, and load, and social systems) to cope with variability while producing desired outcomes. Disturbances affecting this resilient state need to be understood in terms of the interactions, and agents that reinforce system design, and what erodes these agents.

A process to comprehend the likelihood and severity of an adverse event to determine a risk level and help in decision-making about risk treatment.

A relative term related to protections from harm arising from work. In human-centred design, equipment, tools, systems, and environments are neither “safe” or “unsafe” until human tasks and social systems are considered.

A study of the staged activities and their mental and physical requirements, and the environment in which they occur. This video link further explains task analysis.

Total Worker Health is an approach to ingregate occupational health system design with workplace education and programs that prop the continuum of workplace safety to health and well-being. 

A positive-psychology approach driving continuous quality improvement with design that ensures manageable, comprehensible, and meaningful engagement at work.

Subject-matter expert, such as a worker who can tell you about the nuances of their daily activities, environment, seasonality of work, movitations, and needs

Design of products, environments, and systems so that they are easily accessed and used independently by any person, to the greatest possible extent.

A resilient state of being where daily challenges are met by our capabilities; the mood and emotions are well regulated and contentment or happiness is achieved. Measures include qualitative perceptions of life satisfaction, quality of realtionships, and an overlap of phsycial measures, such as heart rate or blood pressure.

A robust and healthy way of being, often measured by physiological benchmarks, such as blood sugar, pedometry – activity or steps taken in a day, or cholesterol levels, though wellness links to the emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing and wholeness

Physical, chemical, biological, organisational, social, natural, and cultural factors surrounding a worker.

Fulfilment with a a sense of purpose and meaning in life, driven and inspired by actions that are well-aligned with values; a visionary and aspiring way of living. This might be measured by life satisfaction scales.

The activities and responsibilities of a person or group within an organisation that produces goods or services, affected by organisational practices, leadership strategies, management methods, technology, and external environment.

An excess of internal thresholds and the subsequent response of a person when exposed to external loads or factors.

An activity or set of activities required of the worker to achieve an intended outcome.

The combination and spatial arrangement of work equipment, surrounded by the work environment, under the conditions imposed by the work tasks.

Antonovsky, A. (1979). Health, Stress and Coping. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass

British Standard: BS ISO 27500:2016. The human-centred organization — Rationale and general principles

Golembiewski, J. A. (2012). Salutogenic design: The neural basis for health promoting environments. World Health Design Scientific Review, 5(4), 62 – 68

Grantham, C. (10 Sept 2015). The difference between well-being and wholeness at work. Work Design Magazine

HFESA (2020). Good Work Design: Position Paper. Australia: HFESA

Hollnagel, E., Leonhardt, J., Licu, T., & Shorrock, S. (2013). From Safety I to Safety II: A White Paper. Eurocontrol.

Hollnagel, E. (2012). Task Analysis: Why, What, and How. Part 3, Chapter 13. In Salvendy, G. (Ed.). Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics (4th ed.). (pp. 385 – 396). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons,ISBN: 978-0-470-52838-9

Horberry, T., J., Burgess-Limerick, R., & Steiner, L. J. (2011). Human Factors for the Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Mining Equipment. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

ISO. International Organization for Standardization (2016). Ergonomics principles in the design of work systems (ISO/DIS Standard No. 6385: 2016(E)).

Karanikas, N., Pazell, S., Wright, A., & Crawford, E. (2021). The What, why, and how of Good Work Design: The perspective of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia. In Rebelo, Francisco (Ed.). Advances in Ergonomics in Design: Proceedings of the AHFE 2021

Karanika-Murray, M., & Weyman, A. K. (2013). Optimising workplace interventions for health and well-being, In International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 2, (6), 104 – 117. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJWHM11-2011-0024.