Work Redesign

The value of modifying your existing job

There are two common objections to extended work and flexible and phased retirement for aging workers. The first is that aging workers are more expensive than their younger counterparts and the second is the fear that if older workers adopt reduced schedules they might continue to do easier and less valuable tasks and become less productive.

Theoretical arguments rarely overcome these assumptions. They are best challenged with a rigorous process of Work Redesign that shows reduced hours can in fact lead to reduced true costs and rethinking and prioritizing one’s existing tasks. This can eliminate potentially lower value work and enhance the delivery of high value activity. Systematically redefining your role will help you, your manager and colleagues honor any agreement to work fewer hours. This process begins with your developing a draft proposal and then negotiating its terms with your manager in a collaborative fashion. 

The redesign process

With a reduced schedule you will not be able to devote the same amount of time as you do now to your existing responsibilities. Your employer should not expect you to complete 100% of your current activities, but you can show that it is possible to eliminate tasks of lesser value while strengthening the most central contributions in your position. Conscientious use of the Work Redesign process offers a straightforward and collaborative way to streamline work.

The Work Redesign process is not a goal in and of itself and lesser value work can add value. For your employer it is a way of maintaining productivity in the areas that matter most for the company. For associates it is a means to create a balanced and successful position that is proactively rather than reactively designed. And for your manager, it is a way to blend high quality work, flexible schedules, and creative knowledge transfer with a limited impact on group output. One of the key challenges of most forms of reduced schedules, for both managers and associates, is so-called boundary creep. This chronic disparity between schedule expectations and daily realities can be greatly reduced by careful Work Redesign.

A critical step in the Work Redesign process is to take a hard look at recurring tasks you have been doing for many years and determine which of them has declined in value over time and could be dropped or in rare cases, taken up by others. While such activities serve a purpose,  they are not typically essential to the success and sustainability of the group’s work.  Such habitual tasks tend to exist throughout any organization. The company benefits from this redesign process because it identifies certain responsibilities that could be removed without disrupting operations.

Examples of Lower Priority Work

The relative value of tasks varies within and across positions. What is central and useful in one may not be high value in another. Some examples of lower priority tasks are:

  • Attending informational meetings for which good, timely minutes are available
  • Composing an internal summary of information that has become widely available
  • Traveling to 2 monthly regional meetings when “virtual attendance” would do
  • Participating in all staff meetings rather than essential sessions
  • Rotating the responsibility for producing an encyclopedic document to others in the group
  • Sitting in on a range of committees which are already well-staffed
  • Tolerating inefficient technical and organizational processes that could be improved

Using the Work Redesign Process

All of the forms provided on this site – the Request, Work Redesign and Knowledge Transfer forms – require serious and sustained attention. Whether fair or not, the burden of documenting that your proposed way of working will be a net positive rests with you. Your manager is under no obligation to accept vague assurances or even entertain the proposal itself. The completion and submission of these forms, or a variant of them, is your opportunity to show your true value.

It is important that you manage the proposal process in a way that provides both maximum information to your manager and maximum protection for your current position. You should begin the process by developing a draft version of the work redesign process. If you have truly supportive colleagues, you can share your draft with them and seek their input. Once you have finalized the draft, the results of this process can be shared orally or in writing with your manager.

The overall process and the sequence of steps you take together will be determined by the two of you. They might include his/her oral feedback or written edit on the sequential documents and your revision of any drafts until you are both satisfied that the grounds exist for a fair decision by the manager. If your proposal is approved you can plan implementation steps, including scheduling evaluation sessions. If the proposal is not approved, you have the option of proposing an alternative or taking the issue up again as conditions change.

Work Redesign Proposal Form

1. Please list the highest value added responsibilities and day to day activities in your current role.

List items in any order, drawing on performance goals and job description.

2. Prioritize your higher value added responsibilities and day to day activities.

Prioritize these responsibilities and day to day activities. If numerous, cluster A-B-C priorities and number sub-items.

3. Brainstorm possible lower-value responsibilities and day to day activities.

Consider activities such as: little used reports or presentations, unexamined habitual activity; unclear delegation, duplication; avoidable meetings, etc.; unproductive task force activity).

4. Prioritize your lower-value responsibilities and day to day activities.

Prioritize these responsibilities and day to day activities. If numerous, cluster A-B-C priorities and number sub-items.

5. Assign approximate time per month spent on all responsibilities and activities.

Provide approximate times for at least the key responsibilities and day to day activities.

6. Draft Ideal Position Design (including estimated time to complete each responsibility and day to day activity).

Starting with the reduction of lower value responsibilities and day to day activities, develop a revised outline that can be done within the reduced schedule option.

7. Recommend any work to be considered by your manager for delegation to other associates in the group.

Understanding that only your manager can delegate work, describe any suggested delegations.

If you submit a version of this form as part of your overall proposal, you should seek to have a version of the statement and signatures below included in that document.

I understand we will evaluate my positional design on a regular basis and at least after three and six months from the start of this arrangement. I understand my role and my participation in a work redesign program is one of employment at will. This simply means that I and the Company have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason. My request to modify full-time status will not lead to any retaliation or adverse treatment.

 

Associate Signature                  Date                                                        Manager Signature                Date

Download the Work Redesign Proposal Form

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