One in two Healthcare and Social Assistance (H&SA) employees with poor work design report experiencing burnout, said to be clearly linked to mental health issues in the workplace.

Sydney University is addressing the challenge of poor mental health in aged, disability and out of home care at a free Design for Care Breakfast event on April 3, on the CBD campus.

The Design for Care research project has partnered with eight aged care, disability care and out-of-home care organisations to co-discover solutions to improve work design and employee wellbeing.

This industry event invites senior leaders, Human Resource professionals Leaders in People and Culture and Work Health and Safety to hear first-hand the key learnings, insights and success stories to emerge from the project so far.

Professor Anya Johnson and Professor Helena Nguyen from the University of Sydney Business School will provide an overview of the research process, the PARRTH to SMART Work Design created by ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Sharon Parker. They will unpack what this looks like on the ground and describe three of the work redesign interventions that are already making a difference to mental health and wellbeing of employees.

The insights are based on workshops with leaders and frontline staff and carers in partner organisations where they have co-created work redesign interventions. In these workshops, front line carers learn about the principles behind SMART work design models and the five characteristics that are important for how work is experienced: Stimulating, Mastery, Agency, Relational and Tolerable.

Redesigning work can be as simple as creating a small team to manage tasks that used to be isolated from each other, having team huddles to discuss what needs to be done, and hearing suggestions for how to do it more effectively. Workers often know how the work could be improved but are prevented from acting by inflexible systems and processes. The challenge for leaders is to create opportunities for work to be a place where their staff can thrive, and this can only be good news for the most vulnerable in society who depend on this care.

At the breakfast, speakers will provide examples of the changes that front line carers have made that have made a difference. They will detail three examples that carers and social workers have trialled, such as creating a process for providing more clarity and transparency for the work that needs to be completed at the beginning of each shift, increasing support for new carers as they enter the profession, and improving the social and relational environment to make emotional demands more tolerable.

The Design for Care State of Affairs event will feature a panel of H&SA employees from Whiddon, Key Assets and Bankstown City Aged Care who participated in the Design for Care workshops and interventions. They will discuss their experience of co-creating strategies to redesign their work, roles and tasks to improve staff wellbeing and mental health.

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