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Ergonomics. 2007 Jan 15;50(1):3-25.

The Work Compatibility Improvement Framework: an integrated perspective of the human-at-work system.

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1
University of Cincinnati, Department of Mechanical Industrial and Nuclear Engineering, College of Engineering 633 Rhodes Hall, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0072, USA. Ash.Genaidy@uc.edu

Abstract

The industrial revolution demonstrated the limitations of a pure mechanistic approach towards work design. Human work is now seen as a complex entity that involves different scientific branches and blurs the line between mental and physical activities. Job design has been a traditional concern of applied psychology, which has provided insight into the interaction between the individual and the work environment. The goal of this paper is to introduce the human-at-work system as a holistic approach to organizational design. It postulates that the well-being of workers and work outcomes are issues that need to be addressed jointly, moving beyond traditional concepts of job satisfaction and work stress. The work compatibility model (WCM) is introduced as an engineering approach that seeks to integrate previous constructs of job and organizational design. The WCM seeks a balance between energy expenditure and replenishment. The implementation of the WCM in industrial settings is described within the context of the Work Compatibility Improvement Framework. A sample review of six models (motivation-hygiene theory; job characteristics theory; person-environment fit; demand-control model; and balance theory) provides the foundation for the interaction between the individual and the work environment. A review of three workload assessment methods (position analysis questionnaire, job task analysis and NASA task load index) gives an example of the foundation for the taxonomy of work environment domains. Previous models have sought to identify a balance state for the human-at-work system. They differentiated between the objective and subjective effects of the environment and the worker. An imbalance between the person and the environment has been proven to increase health risks. The WCM works with a taxonomy of 12 work domains classified in terms of the direct (acting) or indirect (experienced) effect on the worker. In terms of measurement, two quantitative methods are proposed to measure the state of the system. The first method introduced by Abdallah et al. (2004) identifies operating zones. The second method introduced by Salem et al. (2006) identifies the distribution of the work elements on the x/y coordinate plane. While previous efforts have identified some relevant elements of the systems, they failed to provide a holistic, quantitative approach combining organizational and human factors into a common framework. It is postulated that improving the well-being of workers will simultaneously improve organizational outcomes. The WCM moves beyond previous models by providing a hierarchical structure of work domains and a combination of methods to diagnose any organizational setting. The WCM is an attempt to achieve organizational excellence in human resource management, moving beyond job design to an integrated improvement strategy. A joint approach to organizational and job design will not only result in decreased prevalence of health risks, but in enhanced organizational effectiveness as well. The implementation of the WCM, that is, the Work Compatibility Improvement Framework, provides the basis for integrating different elements of the work environment into a single reliable construct. An improvement framework is essential to ensure that the measures of the WCM result in a system that is adaptive and self-regulated.

PMID:
17178649
DOI:
10.1080/00140130600900431
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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