Dr. Nicole Tschierske

Maximizing Work Efficiency and Well-being: A Task-Based Approach

Have you ever found yourself thriving at work, even amidst a mountain of tasks, while on other occasions, seemingly manageable tasks left you drained? Not all tasks are created equal, and the type of work we engage in can significantly impact our energy levels and overall well-being. This article delves into the dynamic relationship between task types and our emotional and physical capacity, offering insights and strategies to help you reduce stress and achieve a state of flow in your work.

In a world where managing heavy workloads is a common challenge, it’s essential to recognize that the nature of the tasks we encounter plays a pivotal role in our work experience. Task types, combined with individual capacities, influence our performance and satisfaction levels at work. By understanding these factors, you can effectively manage your team’s workload and create a more positive work environment.

When it comes to task types, various factors can elevate the effort required to complete them, resulting in reduced energy and capacity. Consider the following questions, which can help you evaluate the mental load associated with different tasks:

1. Is the necessary information readily available when needed?

2. How much cognitive planning and thinking are involved in task completion?

3. What is the complexity and frequency of decision-making within the task?

4. How often must you switch attention between different aspects of your work while prioritizing tasks?

5. Does the task demand significant information recall and memory usage?

6. To what extent must you maintain a high level of alertness to prevent errors, and what are the consequences of mistakes?

7. How do you perceive the level of social interaction involved with colleagues, managers, clients, or stakeholders?

Additionally, take into account factors related to the physical aspects of your work, including posture, physical strain, workstation layout, task timing, and the level of concentration required. Are there aspects of the task that provoke frustration, annoyance, or irritation?

These questions offer a starting point for assessing the intricacies of different tasks and their impact on an individual’s well-being. Furthermore, it’s essential to recognize the significance of task identity, a concept defined by psychologists Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham. Task identity refers to the extent to which a job requires employees to identify and complete a task with a visible outcome. Workers typically derive a greater sense of meaning and fulfilment from their work when they are involved in the entire process, from start to finish.

In an era where efficiency is paramount, tasks have become increasingly specialized and fragmented, often leading to a loss of holistic understanding and a sense of purpose in our work. The film „Modern Times“ (1936) by Charlie Chaplin offers a poignant portrayal of this phenomenon, with workers confined to repetitive, isolated tasks on a relentless assembly line.

Today, automation and robotics are integrated into many aspects of our work, yet it is essential to balance the division of labour and maintain a connection between our tasks and their outcomes. Chopping work into minuscule, disconnected fragments can erode our motivation and job performance. Task identity plays a significant role in reinforcing the link between our efforts and the tangible results we produce.

In conclusion, understanding the nuanced influence of task types on our energy levels and work experience is vital for effective workload management. By acknowledging the complexity of various tasks, their mental and physical demands, and their impact on motivation and performance, you can create a work environment that promotes well-being and efficiency.

(This article is based on a chapter in Better Work: A Leader’s Guide to Creating Happier, Healthier, and More Productive Workplaces.)

Further Reading

Better Work Basics​