Job crafting may be the antidote for workplace burnout, Harvard Business Review reports

April 13, 2020

The Harvard Business Review article “If You’re Burning Out, Carve a New Path” cites research on job crafting by Center for Positive Organizations (CPO) co-founder Jane Dutton and faculty affiliate Amy Wrzesniewski.

The article notes that monotony, lack of flow and lack of autonomy can negatively impact mental health and lead to stress and burnout in the workplace. It suggests that job crafting—letting employees customize their roles to make work more meaningful—may be the solution.

Dutton and Wrzesniewski pioneered the concept of job crafting in 2001 and have continued to explore its impacts. The HBR article cites a paper the women co-authored about a study of cleaners at a prestigious university hospital. The cleaners were broken into two groups, those who enjoyed their jobs and those who didn’t. The cleaning staff who enjoyed their jobs were found to incorporate empathy into their work.

“In one scenario, Wrzesniewksi describes how cleaning staff would put themselves in the physical place of a patient by looking up towards the ceiling ‘to see if there were things that were up there that we might not notice, but would bother the patients if they had to look at them all day long.’ ” Harvard Business Review reports.

The article indicates that such behaviors might have an added bonus beyond making work more meaningful for employees: It also might increase productivity, engagement and retention for employers.

The article is part of an ongoing Harvard Business Review series on job crafting.

Dutton is a CPO core faculty member and the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Emerita Professor of Business Administration and Psychology at the University of Michigan.

Wrzesniewski is a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management at Yale University.