The JD-R Model
Analyzing and Improving Employee Well-Being
Indira works in a high-pressure role. However, she's rarely stressed or upset by this – in fact, she thrives, despite the demands of her job.
One reason for this is that her boss and her organization are so supportive. They provide a comfortable working environment, frequent mentoring and development opportunities, and regular constructive feedback.
Indira is also friends with many of her colleagues, and she sets aside time each week to meet them for coffee.
Indira's situation illustrates the idea behind the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model. This model states that even if you work in a demanding role, you can experience less stress if your organization provides resources to support you.
The word "resources" is confusing here, as it has a different meaning (we'll define this below) from its everyday one. For the rest of this article, we'll use the term "job positives" alongside it.
In this article, we'll look at the JD-R Model, and discuss how you can use it to analyze and improve your team's well-being and engagement.
About the Model
Researchers Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti developed the JD-R Model in 2006.  They presented it as an alternative to existing models of employee well-being. In their opinion, these only addressed a limited number of variables, and did not apply to all people or sectors.
To address these perceived limitations, Bakker and Demerouti's model included a wide range of demands and resources/job positives that could fit any occupation and industry.
The model puts working conditions into two categories: job demands and job resources.
- Job demands are the physical or emotional stressors in your role. These include time pressures, a heavy workload, a stressful working environment, role ambiguity, emotional labor, and poor relationships.
- Job resources (job positives) are the physical, social or organizational factors that help you to achieve goals and reduce stress. They include autonomy, strong work relationships, opportunities for advancement, coaching and mentoring, and learning and development.
The JD-R Model states that when job demands are high and job positives are low, stress and burnout are common. Conversely, good job positives can offset the effects of extreme job demands, and encourage motivation and engagement.
Uses of the Model
The JD-R Model, shown in figure 1, below, can help you to understand and respond to your team's needs.
Figure 1 – The JD-R Model
Diagram reproduced from Bakker and Demerouti (2007), © Emerald Publishing Group.
For example, if job demands are high and resources are low, your team members are more likely to experience greater levels of stress. You're likely to see high absenteeism and high employee turnover as a result.
In this situation, you should work to increase job positives. By doing this, you'll reduce stress and increase people's motivation.
Applying the Model
To apply the principles of the Job Demands-Resources Model, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Identify Job Demands
Start by noting the stressors that could have a negative effect on your team. These might include the following:
- Short deadlines.
- High volumes of work.
- Complex or boring projects.
- An uncomfortable work environment.
- Few opportunities to work autonomously.
- Poor working relationships.
- Emotionally draining tasks or roles.
- Unclear goals or role ambiguity.
- Limited opportunities for career advancement or personal development.
- Excessively bureaucratic rules and procedures.
Keep in mind that every person on your team has unique needs, and different stress thresholds. Something that causes extreme stress for one person might just be an inconvenience – or even a work enabler – for someone else.
This is why it's important to talk to each person on your team individually. Find out which stressors are causing your team members the most trouble. You can then tailor your approach to fit each person's needs.
Step 2: Address Job Demands
Chances are, you now have a long list of factors that could be negatively affecting your team.
It will be within your power to change many of these. So, separate the ones that you can influence from the ones that you can't, and do what you can to reduce job demands.
As part of this, make sure that you have the right people assigned to the right tasks. If people aren't playing to their strengths, they're likely to experience higher stress levels. So, can any tasks be reassigned, or roles redesigned, to spread demands more evenly across the team?
Likewise, examine your team's workflows. Are there processes that could be improved to remove bottlenecks or stress points?
Make sure that your team has a pleasant working environment. When a workspace is comfortable, your people will feel good about being there.
Support your team members by helping them to feel engaged with the work that they're doing, and make sure that they have the resources they need to do their job effectively. Be ready to listen to their concerns, and respond with empathy.
Also, make sure that your team members understand the true purpose of their work, and that every person on your team knows how their work makes a difference. This will both improve motivation and strengthen your team relationships.
Finally, if your team members are engaged in emotional labor, be sensitive to how draining this can be. Share success stories, and teach your people how to cope with the stress that can come with these roles.
Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these stress-management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses, or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
Step 3: Identify Possible Job Resources/Positives
Your next step is to identify and promote the job positives that act as a buffer between your team members and the demands of their roles. These can include the following:
- Mentoring or coaching opportunities.
- Training and development.
- Regular constructive feedback.
- Increased autonomy.
- Clearer goals.
- Organizational rules, benefits, or processes that support and strengthen employees.
You can provide many of these things inexpensively, or for free.
Talk to your team members one-on-one to find out what changes they'd like to see.
Step 4: Promote Job Resources/Positives
Look for opportunities to encourage learning and development. But don't overlook "softer" positives, such as good working relationships, as these are hugely important for reducing job stress. For example, even if everyone's busy, try to set aside time for socializing before meetings and after work.
Provide regular constructive feedback to your people. This will help them to feel supported as they grow and develop.
In addition, offer a wide variety of training and development opportunities. Cross-training is great for developing people in an interesting and affordable way. Some people might also be interested in mentoring one another, or in being mentored by more senior people.
People can also experience stress when they're confused about what they're meant to do. So, make sure that job descriptions are up to date, and create a team charter to define everyone's roles and responsibilities. This is especially important if your team is working on a group project.
Click on the image below to see the JD-R Model represented in an infographic.
Researchers Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti developed the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model in 2006. The model states that when job demands are high and job resources/positives are low, stress and burnout increase. Conversely, a high number of job positives can offset the effects of high job demands.
Take the following steps to apply the JD-R Model:
1. Identify job demands.
2. Address job demands.
3. Identify possible job resources/positives.
4. Address job positives.
When you lessen job demands and promote job positives, your team will experience less stress, and they'll have a greater sense of engagement and motivation.
So, if your people are stressed, use our list of actions to create a happy, supportive working environment.
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