Don't 'Dumb Down' Workers' Tasks Too Much, Warn Researchers

Ann All

In order to drive efficiency, many companies utilize automation and other features to simplify tasks for their workers. Yet this may be the wrong approach, warns an assistant professor of management at Florida State University.


While this does boost productivity in the short term, over time it can lower both employee satisfaction and productivity, says Stephen E. Humphrey, author of a new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology with the unwieldy title "Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features: A Meta-Analytic Summary and Theoretical Extension of the Work Design Literature."


Many of Humphrey's findings, gleaned from analyzing 259 studies involving some 220,000 workers, suggest that employers may want to appeal to their workers' inherently social side.


Having what Humphrey and the two co-authors of the study call "a socially supportive workplace" leads to greater job satisfaction and lower levels of exhaustion and makes folks want to remain on the job. Frequent feedback from others also enhances performance and lowers stress levels and employee dissatisfaction.


This could be a special concern for telecommuters. Earlier this week we blogged about co-working, a trend in which employees conduct at least some business in public places like coffee shops or rented office space.


For a good general take on improving productivity, we like the dozen suggestions included in this itWorldCanada article. Several of them involve making it easier to collaborate with co-workers, and chances are Professor Humphrey wouldn't have a problem with any of them.

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