Balancing Job Demands and Resources – A Tightrope Act
Do you or your staff alternate between burnout and engagement? Researchers postulate this could be due to an imbalance between the job demands being made on employees and the job resources available to get their job done successfully.
Why Achieving a Balance is Important?
If a job is highly demanding it can result in emotional strain and health issues. Yet these problems can be offset if an employer provides sufficient resources that result in increased levels of motivation and higher productivity, according to Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner and Schaufeli’s 2001 Job Demands – Resources (JD-R) Model. The model has become popular with both researchers and practitioners as it has the flexibility to enable adaptation to many different situations. When occupational stress is assessed according to the JD-R model, levels of strain as a response to the demands made on the individual and the resources available to deal with those demands are measured.
Tightrope walkers start with a pole to help them balance, and the JD-R model provides similar support. Working conditions are analysed and placed into two categories – Demands or Resources. Self-reporting by employees, as well as ratings of working conditions by outside observers using LISREL (linear structural relations) analysis, provides insight into the inequalities between job resources and job demands. By understanding these models, employers can work towards establishing balance before a ‘wobble’ sets in and results in staff health problems, emotional burnout, absenteeism, and even industrial action – all of which has an adverse effect on productivity.
How to Achieve the Balance between Job Demands and Resources
The secret lies in analysing job demands and resources using the JD-R model and working towards keeping staff engaged with all the tools at hand to solve the problems and challenges posed by their job.
To avoid imbalance between job demands and resources when introducing a new system, for example, staff will need to be efficiently trained prior to the change and given time to work on the system before it goes “live” – without such preparation, stress is inevitable, even for positive changes.
Often, a two-day crash-course isn’t enough for people to become familiar with a new system. A good deal of support will need to be provided during the initial stages, which some companies may find expensive – but having an expert on hand to guide employees during the initial stages will pay off in the long run. If a system is introduced with the top-down approach it will encounter resistance – instead, allow employees to collaborate on finding a solution and then implement the new system gradually so employees can “own” it. This will reduce the stress associated with job demands because employees have been equipped with the necessary resources.
We often hear people saying things like, “My job is demanding but I love it,” or “I hate my job because there is so much pressure.” The first person has been given the resources to carry out their work efficiently, whereas the second person feels adrift. Management style is likely to account for these two different responses to demanding jobs. Management styles differ and a supportive and understanding manager who helps employees find solutions rather than simply demanding results produces a happier team. Motivation doesn’t come from getting staff hyped about targets – rather it involves listening carefully and removing the obstacles to achieving those targets so staff are more engaged. In other words, managers need to help employees balance their resources and demands.
When stress levels rise productivity drops as the employee becomes disengaged from the process. It takes experience, attention to employee needs, and the help of a good business model to strike the balance between demands that could exhaust an employee and providing adequate resources to ensure a world class act other companies wish to emulate.