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Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

Work organization and ergonomics


Pascale Carayon*, Michael J. Smith
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1513 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA
Received 17 January 2000; accepted 20 July 2000

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of sociotechnical and business trends on work organization and ergonomics. This analysis is
performed with the use of Balance Theory (Smith and Carayon-Sainfort, Int. J. Ind. Ergon. 1989, 4, 67}79). The impact on work
organization and the work system of the following sociotechnical and business trends is discussed: re-structuring and re-organizing of
companies, new forms of work organization, workforce diversity, and information and communication technology. An expansion of
Balance Theory, from the design of work systems to the design of organizations, is discussed. Finally, the issue of change is examined.
Several elements and methods are discussed for the design of change processes.  2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction (1997) emphasizes the main purpose of ergonomics, that


of design. In this paper, we also discuss approaches for
According to Helander (1997), `ergonomics and hu- the (re)design of work/organizational systems.
man factors use knowledge of human abilities and limita-
tions to the design of systems, organizations, jobs,
machines, tools, and consumer products for safe, e$cient, 2. Work organization
and comfortable usea (p. 4). Applications of ergonomics
have evolved over time as ergonomic knowledge and The emergence of macroergonomics has strongly con-
research have progressed, but also as human problems tributed to the increasing interest in work organization in
emerge around the world. A survey of professional socie- the ergonomics "eld (Hendrick, 1991, 1996). Work or-
ties federated in the IEA shows that the "ve most impor- ganization is de"ned as the way work is structured,
tant emerging areas in ergonomics are (Helander, 1997): distributed, processed and supervised (Hagberg et al.,
1995). It is an `objectivea characteristic of the work
E methodology to change work organization and design; environment, and depends on many factors, including
E work-related musculoskeletal disorders; management style, type of product or service, character-
E usability testing for consumer electronic goods; istics of the workforce, level and type of technology, and
E human}computer interface: software; market conditions. According to the US NIOSH (2000),
E organizational design and psychosocial work organ- work organization deals with subjects such as the follow-
ization. ing: the scheduling of work (such as work}rest schedules,
hours of work and shift work), job design (such as com-
Two of these areas are directly related to the theme of plexity of tasks, skill and e!ort required, and degree of
this paper, methodology to change work organization worker control), interpersonal aspects of work (such as
and design, and organizational design and psychosocial relationships with supervisors and coworkers), career
work organization. In this paper, we present concepts of concerns (such as job security and growth opportunities),
work organization and their relationship with ergonom- management style (such as participatory management
ics. We also discuss changes in work and business that practices and teamwork), and organizational character-
can a!ect work organization and ergonomics. Helander istics (such as climate, culture, and communications).
The objective of ergonomics is to improve both perfor-
mance and health and safety. Therefore, the concept of
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 1-608-262-9797; fax: 1-608-262-8454. work organization is at the core of ergonomics. Some
E-mail address: carayon@engr.wisc.edu (P. Carayon). work organizations are more &e$cient' at achieving

0003-6870/00/$ - see front matter  2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 0 3 - 6 8 7 0 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 0 4 0 - 5
650 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

optimal performance and health and safety goals. The Table 1


impact of work organization on people can be concep- Balanced work system
tualized as physical or psychosocial work factors (Cox
Theoretical basis Job design theories
and Ferguson, 1994). Psychosocial work factors are `per- Occupational stress theories
ceiveda characteristics of the work environment that Ergonomics
have an emotional connotation for workers and man-
agers, and that can result in stress and strain (Hagberg et Main concepts The work system has "ve elements: environment,
al., 1995). Physical work factors include typical ergonom- task, technology, organizational factors, indi-
vidual.
ics risk factors, e.g. repetitiveness, force, poor worksta- Two types of stress load: physical and psychologi-
tion design, and unhealthy postures. cal dimensions Positive and negative aspects of
According to the Balance Theory of Job Design (Smith the elements of the work system
and Carayon-Sainfort, 1989), work organization results The work organization de"nes the di!erent ele-
in the design of a work system that has "ve elements: the ments of the work system.
Balance of the total work system
individual, task, tools and technologies, physical environ- Compensatory balance
ment and the organization. The "ve elements of the work
system interact to produce a &stress load'. The interplay Publication First publication appeared in Smith and
and interactions between these di!erent factors can pro- Carayon-Sainfort (1989).
duce various (physical and psychosocial) stressors on the
individual that then produce a &stress load', which has
both physical and psychological components. `Loadsa
on the person challenge biological resources (energy The work system can also cause psychological reac-
expenditure, biomechanical strain, physical status), tions that have emotional, behavioral and biological con-
psychological resources (perception, cognition, decision- sequences. These consequences are primarily determined
making, emotion) and behavioral resources (motivation, by the individual's perception of their ability to meet the
coping behaviors). The stress load, if sustained over time demands imposed, upon their perception of the `accepta-
and depending on the individual resources, can produce bilitya of the working conditions. In addition, the per-
adverse e!ects, such as health and safety problems and son's availability of psychological and behavioral
lack of performance. The characteristics of the load pro- resources, such as motivation, cognitive capacity and
duce physiological and psychological consequences such coping behaviors, in#uence the consequences.
as hormone release, muscular action, perceptions, and The physiological and psychological reactions are not
mood states. The responses to the load are in#uenced by independent of each other. They interact and may even
the individual's physical capacity, health status, and mo- reinforce each other. For instance, the repetitive lifting
tivation. The psychological responses are the product of task may cause boredom, which leads to mental fatigue.
personality, past experiences and the social situation. It may also produce physical fatigue by depleting energy
These physiological and psychological reactions to the resources. These e!ects reinforce each other resulting in
`loadsa act as motivation for employee behavior to re- a systemic response of `generala fatigue (Grandjean,
spond to the `loadsa. The response could be increased or 1969). In a similar way, Cox and Ferguson (1994) have
decreased performance, or `copinga behaviors (adaptive proposed that the e!ects of the work environment on
or maladaptive). The work system can also produce pos- health may be mediated by two pathways: "rst, by a di-
itive e!ects, such as increased motivation and high-qual- rect physico-chemical mechanism, and second by an in-
ity output. The main elements of Balance Theory are direct psycho-physiological mechanism. They also
presented in Table 1. emphasized the interactions between those two path-
According to Balance Theory the work system im- ways. The e!ects of the work environment are due to
poses the `loadsa which bring about the individual's a set of complex interactions between physical, psychoso-
physiological and psychological reactions. The physiolo- cial and organizational factors and processes.
gical reactions caused by the load produce a strain on the Physical, psychological and behavioral resources are
person if they exceed the available biological resources, not a "xed and stable set of individual characteristics but
such as energy resources or mechanical strength. For change over time and are in#uenced by capacity, motiva-
instance, a repetitive lifting task with heavy materials tion, stress responses and the demands of the working
being carried out for hours without rest can exhaust conditions. For instance, these resources may increase
energy resources and produce local muscular fatigue. because of on-the-job training or the availability of pow-
This can diminish strength and a!ect lifting style. Shift- ered assistance machinery. In the repetitive lifting
work can disrupt biological rhythms that increase the example the introduction of equipment to do the lifting
demand on the body's energy resources. It can in#uence will reduce the energy requirements and the local muscle
behavior such as eating and sleeping, which e!ects energy fatigue, while training in proper lifting techniques may
resources and fatigue. also reduce these same outcomes. Stress responses can
P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662 651

in#uence the biological, psychological and behavioral repetitiveness, can be stressful both physically and psy-
resources available to an individual. Individual personal- chologically. Physical repetitiveness has been found to be
ity characteristics, genetic make-up and health status all a major predictor of various musculoskeletal disorders
in#uence the physical resources available to the indi- (see, for example, Silverstein et al., 1987). Psychological
vidual and the nature of the stress responses. repetitiveness, such as lack of challenge, low variety and
The load on the individual can be in#uenced by the underutilization of skills, can also lead to various phys-
physical demand, psychological response to the demand ical and mental health problems (see, for example, Cox,
as mediated by perception, or both. When the load be- 1985).
comes too great, the person displays stress responses, Technology: Lack of adequate skills to use the techno-
which are emotions, behaviors, and biological reactions logy leads to poor motivation, stress and diminished
that are maladaptive. When these reactions occur fre- performance. Fear over job loss due to replacement by
quently over a prolonged time period, they lead to health technology reduces motivation and increases stress. On
disorders. Thus, chronic exposure with cumulative reac- the other hand when new technology is applied appro-
tions is a hallmark of distress. Cumulative stress re- priately it can enhance job content and skill utilisation,
sponses reduce the available resources for dealing with leading to increased motivation and performance with
the loads from the work environment, and a circular decreased stress. The physical characteristics of the tools
e!ect begins. This repeated circular cycle leads to and technology can put physiological loads on the em-
a breakdown in individual resources, unless external re- ployee. For instance, poor workstation design can lead to
sources, are made available or the environmental load is unhealthy postures and movements, and diminished per-
reduced. formance (see, for example, Grandjean, 1969). Ergonomic
According to Balance Theory, the e!ects of the work problems of hand tools have been much discussed (Konz,
system on the individual are assumed to be mediated by 1979).
the stress load that is both physical and psychological. Organizational factors: The organizational context in
These e!ects have in#uences on the quality of working which work tasks are carried out often has consider-
life, performance, strain and health. Research and prac- ations that in#uence worker motivation, stress and per-
tice in the "eld of work organization have demonstrated formance. The way in which workers are introduced to
that considering only a small number of work factors can new technology or some other change, and the organiza-
be misleading and ine$cient in solving job design prob- tional support they receive-such as training and time to
lems. Balance Theory emphasizes a systems approach in acclimate-have been related to stress and performance
which all elements of the work system should be con- (Smith and Carayon, 1995). The ability to grow in a job
sidered in order to improve performance, and health and and to be promoted (career development) a!ects motiva-
safety. The following is a short review of each element of tion and stress. Potential job loss in#uences motivation,
the work system. performance and stress. Other organizational consider-
Environment: Ergonomists have highlighted various as- ations such as work schedule (shiftwork) and overtime
pects of the physical environment as job stressors includ- have been shown to have negative mental and physical
ing noise, lighting, temperature, air quality and work health consequences (Monk and Tepas, 1985).
place layout. Noise is the most well-known environ- Individual: A number of personal considerations deter-
mental stressor that can cause increases in arousal, blood mine the physiological and psychological responses that
pressure, and negative psychological mood (Cohen and the preceding elements of the work system model will
Spacapan, 1984; Crocker, 1997). Environmental condi- produce. These include, but are not limited to, personal-
tions, general air quality and housekeeping have been ity, physical health status, skills and abilities, physical
shown to a!ect energy expenditure, heat exchange, stress conditioning, anthropometrics, prior experiences and
responses, and sensory disruption which make it more learning, motives, goals and needs.
di$cult to carry out tasks and increase the level of The "ve elements of the balance model system work in
worker stress and emotional irritation. concert to provide the loads and the resources for
Task: Many of the so-called psychosocial work factors achievement of individual and organizational goals. We
fall into the task element: job demands (e.g., perceived have described some of the potential negative attributes
quantitative workload, work pressure, cognitive de- of the elements in terms of motivation, performance and
mands), job content (e.g., challenge, repetitiveness), ma- job stress, but there are also positive aspects of each that
chine-pacing and job control (Carayon and Lim, 1998). can counteract the negative in#uences. For instance, the
According to the Job Strain model of Karasek (1979), the negative in#uences of inadequate skill to use new techno-
combination of high job demands and low decision latit- logy can be o!set by increased worker training. The
ude is the most stressful combination and can lead to adverse in#uences of low job content can be balanced by
various health problems. These two task factors are only an organizational supervisory structure that promotes
two of the many task elements that can a!ect perfor- employee involvement and control over the tasks. Jobs
mance, and health and safety. Another task element, with many negative elements are jobs that produce the
652 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

most adverse impact on the employee, whereas jobs that cal evidence on the human impact of re-engineering and
have better balance are less stressful and may actually downsizing shows some potential negative impact on
produce positive outcomes, such as high quality of work- work organization, quality of working life, and health; it
ing life and enhanced quality of performance (Carayon, also shows that some of the negative impact can be
1994; Eklund, 1997b). balanced out. However, the systemic impact of re-engin-
eering and downsizing on work has not been examined
yet. Research on the physical health impact (e.g., mus-
3. Sociotechnical and business trends culoskeletal disorders) of re-engineering and downsizing
is necessary to evaluate the full systemic impact of such
The US NIOSH (2000) indicates that work organiza- organizational restructuring.
tion is in#uenced by factors such as economic conditions,
technological change, demographic trends, and changing 3.1.2. Quality improvement
corporate and employment practices. There are major Other trends in businesses include the widespread de-
changes and trends occurring in business, technology and velopment of quality improvement strategies, such as
society that can represent new forms of work organiza- total quality management (TQM). TQM can involve
tion and, therefore, have potentially large impacts on the important changes in the way work is organized (Smith
work system. In this section, we describe some of these et al., 1989). TQM can lead to positive and/or negative
trends and their potential impact on the work system. changes in psychosocial work factors (Carayon et al.,
The following trends are discussed: (1) re-structuring and 1999a; Sainfort et al., 1997). Understanding the linkages
re-organizing of companies, (2) new forms of work organ- between ergonomics and TQM is crucial. Drury
ization, (3) workforce diversity, and (4) information and (1997) lists several interactions between ergonomics
communication technology. and TQM:

3.1. Re-structuring and re-organizing of companies E the use of ergonomics to improve the performance of
quality control inspectors;
In the past decade, companies have been going E applications of TQM to safety aspects of ergonomics;
through increasingly rapid changes in their structures E linkages between TQM and macro-ergonomics or
and organizations. Programs and management tech- socio-technical systems;
niques, such as business process engineering, total quality E open systems strategic issues;
management (TQM), virtual organizations, networked E systems approaches to organization design and leader-
organizations, #exibility, lean manufacturing, and agile ship;
production, have posed major challenges to companies. E measurement-based operations;
These programs and management techniques have a E appropriate use of technology;
major impact on the way companies are structured E individuals, teams and the change process.
and organized. In this section, we discuss some of the
potential e!ects of these re-structuring and re-organizing Interesting research has been conducted to examine
e!orts, in particular on work organization and the links between ergonomic stress and low quality of
ergonomics. performance (Eklund, 1997a; 1995). Further research
should examine the potential positive and/or negative
3.1.1. Re-engineering and downsizing linkages between ergonomics and TQM (Eklund,
Re-engineering and downsizing continue to be imple- 1997a).
mented by businesses. These organizational re-structur-
ing e!orts a!ect work organization and may have 3.1.3. Virtual corporation
adverse results for people, for example in increased work- The virtual corporation is another form of organiza-
load demands, longer and more varied work shifts, and tional structure that has been receiving increased atten-
job insecurity. The negative aspects of downsizing on tion (Davidow and Malone, 1992). A virtual corporation
employees remaining in the organization may be com- is created when independent companies join together to
pensated by appropriate changes in the work organiza- act like a single corporation. This work organization can
tion. A longitudinal study of downsizing suggests that have major impact on the psychosocial and physical
improvements in the work organization were able to aspects of the work system. For instance, in a virtual
o!set the negative e!ects of increased workload following corporation, much of the interaction between employees
downsizing (Parker et al., 1997). There was no overall is conducted through some form of information and
decrease in well-being after the downsizing, despite in- communication technology (e.g., video conferencing,
creased work demands. However, it is possible that the email). This occurs in a context where employees are
increased work demands could lead to increased health supposed to cooperate on a speci"c project for a limited
problems, such as musculoskeletal disorders. The empiri- time period. From a work organization and ergonomics
P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662 653

point of view, several problems may occur in such a work 3.2. New forms of work organization
system, such as dependency on the technology and
potential stress problems (Carayon-Sainfort, 1992; Many changes in work organization have recently
Smith, 1987, 1997) and performance obstacles (Brown emerged, even if theoreticians have introduced some of
and Mitchell, 1991), and di$culty in building co- the concepts many years ago. For instance, teamwork,
operation between &remote' co-workers. On the other participation and empowerment have received increased
hand, the virtual corporation may provide some bene"ts attention by companies. In addition, there has been
to the employees such as opportunity to develop a movement toward building close links between
and learn new skills through collaboration with employees and customers.
employees in other companies. In virtual corporations,
the issue of physical design of home o$ces is particularly 3.2.1. Teamwork
important. Recently, various forms of teamwork have been pro-
posed and applied, from temporary teams (e.g., quality
3.1.4. Networked organization circles, project teams) to permanent teams (e.g., semi-
The increasing use of information and communication autonomous work groups, self-managed teams). Tem-
technology has facilitated the emergence of organiza- porary teams are set up when some change needs to be
tional networks of people, groups and companies. The implemented and to better manage the change process.
concept of &networked organization' has been much dis- The design of the change process, including the role of
cussed in the business literature (see, for example, Grand- teamwork, is discussed later. In this section we focus on
ori and Soda, 1995); however the implications on work permanent teams.
organization and ergonomics have not been studied and Teamwork represents one form of work organization
taken into account in the design and implementation of that can have large positive and/or negative e!ects on the
this type of organizational structure. In a networked di!erent elements of the work system and on human
organization, there is collaboration and cooperation be- outcomes, such as performance, attitudes, well-being and
tween the di!erent organizations that belong to the net- health. Sundstrom et al. (1990) have de"ned work teams
works. Therefore, employees in those di!erent as `interdependent collections of individuals who share
organizations are supposed to work closely with each responsibility for speci"c outcomes for their organiza-
other. Often, the close collaboration includes sharing tionsa (p. 120). Teams can vary a great deal in the way
some physical space. For instance, in the French plant they are designed, managed and implemented. Lawler
producing the Smart cars, workers of di!erent companies (1986) lists the following characteristics of work teams:
work under the same roof, in the same plant. However, membership, work area coverage, training, meetings,
employees of the di!erent members of the network work supervision, reward systems, decision-making responsib-
in di!erent settings and organizations, under di!erent ility, installation process, and size. Sundstrom et al.
systems of task distribution and decision-making pro- (1990) have proposed that work team e!ectiveness is
cesses, and in various physical conditions. This raises dynamically inter-related with organizational context,
important ergonomic considerations, for instance when boundaries and team development. Hackman (1987) has
workers can see that they work in di!erent physical proposed a normative model of group e!ectiveness. The
working conditions and with di!erent tools. The model identi"es three process criteria: e!ort, knowledge,
di!erent organizational members of the network may put and the appropriateness of task performance strategies.
more or less emphasis on physical working conditions Increases in these three criteria, given task con"gura-
and ergonomic tools. This may create tension among tions, should improve the overall e!ectiveness of the
employees, leading to poor cooperation, decreased per- group. According to Hackman (1987), the basic levers to
formance, and stress. Further research is necessary to change the process criteria are group design, organiza-
examine the interactions between di!erent work systems tional context, and synergy.
of a networked organization and their impact on em- Given the variety of team characteristics and organiza-
ployees. tional settings, it is likely that the impact of teamwork on
the work system will be highly variable. Some teams may
3.1.5. Conclusion provide for positive characteristics, such as increased
We have insu$cient knowledge about the impact of autonomy and more interesting tasks, whereas other
di!erent forms of re-structuring and re-organizing of teams may produce production pressures and tightened
companies on the work system. It is important to study management control (Lawler III, 1986). One important
the accompanying changes in work organization and issue in team design is the degree of authority and auton-
the positive and negative impact of these changes on the omy (Goodman et al., 1988; Medsker and Campion,
di!erent elements of the work system. Understanding the 1997). It is, therefore, important to examine the impact of
impact on people should be of utmost importance to teamwork on the task and organizational elements of the
companies. work system. Tasks performed by teams are typically of
654 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

a di!erent nature compared to tasks performed by indi- competence, self-determination and impact (Thomas and
vidual employees. Understanding the physical and psy- Velthouse, 1990). It is generally assumed that participa-
chosocial characteristics of the tasks performed by the tion and empowerment are positive characteristics of
team and the members of the team is highly signi"cant a work organization that can foster quality of working
for ergonomists. Teams can provide opportunity for re- life, and reduce stress and health problems. However,
ducing the physical and psychosocial repetitiveness of some authors have warned against the potential negative
tasks performed by individual employees. This is true human consequences of participation (see, for example,
only if employees have su$cient training on the di!erent Fantasia et al., 1988; Dickson, 1981). Therefore, following
tasks and if rotation among tasks occurs. In some instan- Balance Theory, it is important to understand the multi-
ces, the increased authority and autonomy provided to dimensional, dynamic characteristics of participation
teams may allow employees to in#uence their work and empowerment, and their potential positive and nega-
rhythms and production schedules. This may have bene- tive impact on the work system and people (Cotton et al.,
"cial physical impact if adequate work}rest schedules are 1988; Dachler and Wilpert, 1978; Wilson and Haines,
used. On the other hand, members of the team may work 1997). It will be interesting to conduct research on the
very hard at the beginning of the shift in order to rest at role of various &participants' (see, for example, Haims and
the end of the day. This overload at the beginning of the Carayon, 1998; Karltun and Eklund, 2000). Research is
shift may have some physical health consequences, such also necessary to further examine the potential negative
as musculoskeletal disorders. A more balanced workload impact of participation, in particular increased workload
over the entire shift is preferred. In other instances, team- and work pressure (Carayon et al., 1999a).
work has been accompanied by tightened management
control (Barker, 1993) and electronic and peer surveil- 3.2.3. Employee}customer relationship
lance (Sewell, 1998). In conclusion, the impact of team- The service sector now accounts for a large proportion
work on work organization and ergonomics is largely of the economy of industrialized countries. In addition,
undetermined and depends on a range of factors. How- many &manufacturing' companies are becoming more
ever, teamwork can provide many opportunities to im- and more &service' companies: they develop and sell not
prove elements of the work system. Ergonomics research only a physical product, but also associated services (e.g.,
should be conducted to characterize elements of &good' a computer with a maintenance contract). Moreover the
teams and to propose approaches for designing and customer tends to be more directly involved in the manu-
implementing them. facturing operations. These changes lead to closer rela-
tionships between employees and customers, in
3.2.2. Participation particular in the form of transactions and interactions
Another major change in work organization is the (Drury, 1998). Therefore, it is important to understand
increased use of participation. Participation is not a new the work organization and ergonomics impact of these
concept (see, for example, the early study by Coch and transactions and interactions between the employee and
French, 1948), but it has received increased attention by the customer. Many elements of the work system can be
both theoreticians and practitioners in diverse areas, a!ected by these changes in work organization. Often,
including ergonomics (Wilson, 1991). The "eld of par- the interaction between the customer and the employee
ticipatory ergonomics has seen a marked increase from will not be face-to-face but through some technology,
the early 1980s to today (Wilson and Haines, 1997). Since such as telephone and email. When technological prob-
participatory ergonomics can be conceived as a macro- lems occur, for instance, the technology-mediated inter-
ergonomic tool for implementing ergonomics, it is further action between the customer and the employee may lead
discussed in the section on change process. In the 1990s, to a range of consequences, including increased stress
in parallel with the increased interest in participation, the and pressure on the employee. Further research is neces-
concept of &empowerment' has emerged. While the two sary to examine the technology-mediated interaction be-
concepts of participation and empowerment are not sim- tween customers and employees, in particular under
ilar, they share some common interest in increased sub-optimal technological functioning.
employee control and involvement (Bowen and Lawler, The direct contact between the employee and the cus-
1995; Lawler III, 1986). For instance, participative man- tomer will also have major impacts on the organizational
agement can be conceptualized as a means for empower- element of the work system, such as work schedules.
ing employees (Speer and Hughey, 1996). At the Customers may expect to have access to the service
organizational level, empowerment may exist when or- whenever needed, therefore leading to longer work days
ganizations implement practices that distribute power, and weeks, and shiftwork for the employees. The conse-
information, knowledge, and rewards throughout the quences of shiftwork have been largely discussed in the
organization (Bowen and Lawler, 1995). At the indi- ergonomics literature (see, for example, Tepas et al.,
vidual level, empowerment refers to intrinsic tasks mo- 1995). Other e!ects of the closer employee/customer rela-
tivation that manifests itself in four cognitions: meaning, tionship on the work system include major changes in the
P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662 655

tasks performed by the employee. In this context, it is ticipatory ergonomics is a methodology that has been
necessary to understand the nature and content of cus- used and implemented in a variety of countries and
tomer/service provider interactions (Drury, 1998). Chen workplaces. The type and methods of participation may
and Drury (1997) have proposed an ergonomics frame- vary considerably on di!erent dimensions, as de"ned by
work for understanding the interactions between a cus- Wilson and Haines (1998): extent/level, purpose, continu-
tomer and a service provider, e.g., an employee. ity, involvement, formality, requirement for participa-
tion, decision-making structures, and coupling. The
3.2.4. Conclusion design and implementation of participatory ergonomics
In conclusion, major changes in work organization are should also take into account characteristics of the na-
occurring, in particular in the forms of teamwork, partici- tional cultures (Carayon and JarvenpaK aK , 2000; Kogi,
pation, empowerment and increased linkage between 1997). More generally, we could argue that the human
employees and customers. Ergonomic researchers and outcomes of work organization depend on the cultural
practitioners have tackled some of those issues. However, characteristics of the employees. The (re)design of work
much is still not known about the potential positive, as systems should, therefore, take into account not only the
well as the negative aspects of these new forms of work demographic and background characteristics of the em-
organization, and their consequences on performance, ployees (e.g., age, gender, anthropometric dimensions,
health and safety. Can these new forms of work organiza- race and ethnic background), but also their cultural
tion be the foundation for implementing ergonomics and backgrounds. Some attention has been given to the cul-
fostering positive human outcomes? As ergonomists, it is tural/societal context of work systems (see, for example,
important not to embark quickly on &management fads' the concept of anthropotechnology by Wisner (1995)).
but to stay alert in order to identify the potential threat However, much more work is needed to develop theories
to employee well-being and health. On the other hand, and methods for facilitating the "t between employees
much bene"t can be derived when implementing some of of di!erent countries and cultures and their working
the changes (see, for example, the literature on participa- environment.
tory ergonomics), and ergonomics concepts and methods
have much to o!er in the `humanea implementation of 3.4. Information and communication technology
these new forms of work organization.
The implementation of various forms of information
3.3. Workforce diversity and communication technology (ICT) in organizations
has led to many important changes in work organization
The workforce is aging rapidly and becoming increas- and ergonomics. The following issues are discussed in
ingly diverse with regard to race and ethnic background, this section: telework, mental demands, and E-commerce.
gender and nationality/culture. The increase in work-
force diversity challenges ergonomists who need to con- 3.4.1. Telework
sider a greater variety of employee needs, expectations, The development of ICT has contributed to the emer-
and characteristics. Work systems should be designed to gence of new forms of work organization, such as tele-
take into account the (actual and/or potential) diversity work and teamwork via computer-mediated commun-
of the workforce. Some ergonomics research has been ication. Telework or working at home is common for
conducted to study the e!ects of aging (see, for example, clerical workers performing routine transactions and for
Czaja, 1990). However, many other issues related to autonomous professionals such as writers and designers
diversity, such as cross-cultural aspects, have been largely (Sproull and Kiesler, 1991). In terms of the work system,
ignored by ergonomics research. there are potential positive and negative aspects of ICT
In the midst of the globalization of the economy, that can in#uence the stress load and impact perfor-
companies have been faced with increasing cross-cultural mance, health and safety. ICT can have both positive and
challenges and problems. New knowledge and under- negative e!ects on work demands. One example is in the
standing of cross-cultural issues in work organization context of telework or remote work. On the one hand,
and ergonomics are necessary to better take into account telework allows for increased control over work pace and
cultural characteristics in the (re)design of work systems, variability of workload. It has been found, however, that
in particular in the context of the development of global electronic communication and telework have led to feel-
companies. Global companies need to understand di!er- ings of not being able to get away from work and to the
ent cultures and the e!ects of cultural factors on em- augmentation (rather than substitution) of regular o$ce
ployees, and thus on organizational e!ectiveness and hours (Phizacklea and Wolkowitz, 1995; Sproull and
functioning. For instance, leadership styles and organiza- Kiesler, 1991). The work place and the home are one and
tional structures suitable for a given national culture may the same, and constant access to technology eliminates
not necessarily be applicable to the context of another time boundaries for work. Although there is a potential
national culture (Hofstede, 1997). As an example, par- negative impact in terms of work demands, the freedom
656 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

and #exibility o!ered by telework is a major advantage, performed by warehouse workers and delivery em-
especially for individuals with children and other non- ployees. Attention should be paid to the ergonomics of
work responsibilities (Phizacklea and Wolkowitz, 1995). warehouse and delivery tasks performed by employees of
The ability to schedule work around other crucial re- &E-commerce' companies. In particular one should exam-
sponsibilities increases job control and helps to reduce ine the interaction between the physical (e.g., lifting ob-
role con#ict. Remote work does, however, lead to de- jects) and psychosocial (e.g., performing under time
creased social interaction with work peers and sometimes pressure) aspects of work. The development of E-com-
decreased career mobility because of the lack of informal, merce is also having a large impact on the amount of time
social networks developed within the organization spent in front of computers, not only at the workplace
(Sproull and Kiesler, 1991). but also at home. The cumulative impact of times spent
In addition, working at home necessitates the right at computers should be further researched. The di!usion
workstation and physical environment. Ergonomics of of E-commerce systems will lead to increasing time spent
home o$ces has not been studied much. Moreover the in front of computers. Therefore, the issue of ergonomic
question of who is responsible for ensuring good ergo- design of computer workstations in a variety of environ-
nomics at the home o$ce comes up. How is the informa- ments (e.g., warehouse, o$ce, shop#oor) will become
tion on ergonomics to be distributed and shared with the increasingly important.
home workers? Can we use macroergonomic methods,
such as participatory ergonomics, to improve the design 3.4.4. Conclusion
and set-up of computer workstations and o$ces in the The positives and negatives of ICT are ultimately not
home setting? These important questions have received inherent to the technology itself, but rather are e!ects of
insu$cient attention and need to be further explored by the organizational structures and policies (i.e. work or-
ergonomists. ganization) under which the technology resides (Carayon
and Lim, 1994; Smith et al., 1981; Sproull and Kiesler,
3.4.2. Mental demands 1991). New computer-based technology has prompted
People who use ICT to perform their job may experi- some managers to reinforce hierarchical organizational
ence high mental e!ort. Some types of computer- structures by controlling information exchange, blocking
mediated tasks may increase information-processing certain channels of communication and enhancing sur-
requirements and place great demands on attention, veillance (e.g. electronic performance monitoring). The
decision-making, and memory. Increased levels of cogni- same technology has prompted other managers to initi-
tive demands due to ICT have been shown to in#uence ate a new management style characterized by a #exible,
employee stress and health (Czaja and Sharit, 1993; Lin- continuous learning work environment and culture to
dstrom and Leino, 1989; Lindstrom et al., 1989; Yang, support information sharing and participation in deci-
1994). In addition, the characteristics of the ICT, such as sion-making (i.e. decision/organizational control). One of
variability of system response time, can a!ect people's the biggest challenges of the future for work organization
physiological and psychological responses. Cognitive de- and ergonomics specialists will be to design for maximiz-
mands can be increased when the system response time is ing the positive and minimizing the negative potential
poor and the nature of work#ow is not transparent to the aspects of ICT and its implementation in di!erent types
workers. In other words, unpredictable demands and and forms of work.
interruptions of work#ow caused by system breakdowns
may be di$cult to deal with because of the disruptive
e!ect on cognitive control process. The implementation 4. Balanced work system}Balanced organization
of ICT in work organization can lead to greater demands
on cognitive resources in terms of memory, attention, The original concept of the Balance Theory was de-
and decision-making that may have a negative impact on veloped to examine a work system and its impact on the
worker health and work performance. individual who is at the center of the system (Smith and
Carayon-Sainfort, 1989). In this section, we enlarge the
3.4.3. E-commerce original concept in order to examine an organization that
The strong emergence of &dot-com' companies has put is a group of work systems. The concept of &balanced
forward the concept of &E-commerce'. Many companies organization' is discussed later.
have implemented ICT-based systems for distributing
and selling their products. These E-commerce systems 4.1. Balanced work system
have important impacts on work organization. Behind
the &high-tech' interfaces of web sites has emerged a range The essence of Balance Theory is to improve motiva-
of jobs and tasks. In particular, E-commerce activities tion and performance and reduce stress and the negative
necessitate packaging, sending and delivering the prod- health consequences by `balancinga the various elements
ucts ordered through a web site. These tasks will be of the work system to provide positive aspects to counter
P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662 657

the negative ones (see Table 1). The `besta job design can therefore may direct di!erent interventions than would
be achieved by providing all characteristics of each ele- an `organizational developmenta approach.
ment of the model that can meet recognized criteria for There are two aspects of `balancea that need to be
worker needs ful"llment and that set proper physiolo- addressed. These are (1) the balance of the total system,
gical and psychological loads to eliminate stress and and (2) compensatory balance. System balance is based
strain. In reality such a perfect job is not attainable. on the idea that a workplace or process or job is more
Balance Theory proposes using good elements to com- than the sum of the individual components of the system.
pensate for poor aspects in other elements to balance the The interplay among the various components of the
`loadsa, to reduce stress and health and safety problems, system produces results that are greater (or lesser) than
and enhance motivation and performance. the additive aspects of the individual parts. It is the way
Various theories of job design can help us de"ne the in which the system components relate to each other that
positive and negative characteristics of the work system. determines the potential for the system to produce posit-
For instance, theories of occupational stress have de"ned ive results. If an organization concentrates solely on the
work stressors that are negative characteristics, such as physical aspects of the work system, then there is an
high workload, shiftwork, low job control, high role `imbalancea because the psychosocial factors are neglect-
ambiguity and role con#ict (Smith and Carayon-Sain- ed. Thus, job improvements must take account of and
fort, 1989). Theories of job design have also speci"ed accommodate the entire work system. The second type of
positive characteristics such as high task variety, feed- balance is `compensatorya in nature. It is seldom pos-
back, opportunities for learning, and autonomy (Hack- sible to eliminate all work factors that cause stress and
man and Oldham, 1976; Herzberg, 1966). Ergonomic health and safety problems. This may be due to "nancial
models have also de"ned negative characteristics of considerations, or it may be because it is impossible to
work, and their interactions with the individual (Grand- change inherent aspects of job tasks, the technology or
jean, 1969; Konz, 1979). Generic physical risk factors customer demands and expectations. The essence of
have been de"ned, such as repetitiveness of motions, this `balancea is to reduce the stress load by making
forceful motions and poor postures. changes in aspects of work that can be positively changed
Balance Theory de"nes the process by which working to help improve those negative aspects that cannot be
conditions at di!erent levels (i.e. individual, task, envi- changed.
ronment, technology, and organization) can produce Empirical research has shown that jobs can be charac-
loads that can lead to poor outcomes such as low motiva- terized by a system of positive and negative elements
tion, diminished performance, increased stress and (Carayon, 1994). Jobs that have many negative elements
poorer health. It also proposes a system that helps bal- are related to higher levels of strain and health problems
ance these loads to produce better outcomes. When bal- than are jobs with positive elements. Research has also
ance cannot be achieved through changing the negative been conducted to understand the linkages between
aspects of an element, it can be improved by enhancing physical and psychosocial work factors (see, for example,
the positive aspects of other elements of the job. Thus, the Lim, 1994). A recently published paper by Carayon et al.
good aspects of work can be used to `counter-balancea (1999b) further explores the theoretical foundations of
the bad. the relationship between work organization, psychoso-
A major advantage of Balance Theory is that it does cial work factors, and musculoskeletal disorders. Further
not highlight any one factor such as shiftwork, or a small research is necessary to examine the feasibility and po-
set of factors such as demand and control. Rather it tential bene"ts of di!erent types of balancing mecha-
examines the design of jobs from a holistic perspective to nisms when redesigning work systems.
emphasize the potential positive elements in a job that
can be used to overcome the adverse aspects. Thus, all 4.2. Balanced organization
aspects of the job must be considered in developing
a proper design. This model does not subscribe to only A company can be thought of as a constellation of
one approach for job design such as content enrichment work systems interacting with each other. The work
or participation. Both approaches may have some posit- organization de"nes the characteristics of the work sys-
ive bene"ts given the right circumstances. In fact, it is tems, but also the links and relations among the work
likely that there will be circumstances in which both systems. Therefore, it is important not only to &balance'
approaches can be used in concert to provide less stress- the individual work systems, but also the constellation of
ful work. This model is similar to an `organizational work systems, that is the company. We can then de"ne
developmenta approach in that it uses one or more a &balanced' organization as an organization that takes
aspects or elements from many di!erent theoretical per- into account business goals and human outcomes, that
spectives to solve speci"c problems. The emphasis di!ers examines the positive and negative aspects of work/or-
in that stress, performance, and health and safety, and ganizational system design, and that minimizes the nega-
not only productivity, are the outcomes of interest and tive (human and organizational) outcomes. Minimizing
658 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

the negative outcomes implies weighing up the positive #exibility than either approach singularly. In a similar
and negative organizational/job design aspects and com- way, our approach to &balanced organization' attempts
pensating the negatives by some positive aspect. The to integrate the di!erent levels of consideration, from the
main elements of the balanced organization are present- human level to the task and organizational level.
ed in Table 2. Our approach de"nes the organization as a system of
In a way similar to the concept of &balanced organiza- work systems with the following characteristics:
tion', some ergonomists and work organization re-
searchers have discussed the balance between the needs, E The work systems have "ve di!erent elements: the
objectives and expectations of employees and those of individual, tasks, tools and technologies, physical and
companies. Vink et al. (1998a) have de"ned a &successful' social environment, and organizational conditions
company not only in terms of "nancial success, but also (Smith and Carayon-Sainfort, 1989).
in terms of environmental bene"ts and healthy per- E The work systems are related to each other, and
formance. They argued that companies could be more a group (or system) of work systems forms an organ-
successful if technological, organizational and human ization.
factors are balanced. Lindstrom (Lindstrom, 1997; E The organization is a system with "ve elements:
Lindstrom et al., 1998), Lim and Murphy (Lim and people, strategy, structure, rewards and processes
Murphy, 1997; Murphy and Lim, 1997), Cox and Leiter (Galbraith, 1995).
(1992), and Cooper and Cartwright (1994) have recently
proposed the concept of &healthy organizations' to de- According to Galbraith (1995), the company's strategy
scribe an organization in which both corporate health speci"es the goals and objectives to be achieved as well as
and employee health are important. This is an important the values and missions to be pursued. The strategy is the
conceptual development in the "eld of work organization most important factor because it establishes the criteria
and ergonomics because it ties some of the micro- for choosing among organizational forms. The structure
level characteristics (e.g., individual, task) with organiza- determines the placement of power and authority in the
tion-level characteristics. This should lead to a better organization. Information and decision processes cut
integration of both human and organizational levels of across the organization's structure. Rewards de"ne pol-
analysis and design. Venda and Hendrick (1993) have icies regulating salaries, promotions, bonuses, pro"t
de"ned the importance of taking a broader perspective of sharing, stock options, etc. The &people' element is com-
organizational design using a top down process incor- prised of the human resource policies of recruiting, selec-
porating various levels of human decision-making. This tion, rotation, training and development.
approach examines the integration of technical and per- According to Galbraith (1995), a balanced approach is
sonnel subsystems, which are seen as interdependent. necessary for organizational design, &weighing the posit-
`Mutuala adaptation of each subsystem provides more ives and negatives of organizational design alternatives'
(p.7). Galbraith emphasizes that the ultimate decision
Table 2
regarding the organizational design depends on the busi-
Balanced work organization ness strategy. We argue that the business strategy should
include all facets of the organization, including the people
Theoretical Work organization theories working in that organization (see also Eklund, 1997a).
basis Ergonomics We can, therefore, extend Galbraith's approach by in-
Organizational design theories
cluding human outcomes. Therefore, when weighing the
Main concepts Consideration of both business goals and human positives and negatives of an organizational form, it is
outcomes important to not only understand its impact on organ-
Positive and negative aspects of work/organizational izational performance, but also on employee perfor-
system design mance, stress, health and safety.
Organization conceived as a group of work systems:
interactions and interfaces between work systems
The process of designing an organization and its work
Organization as a system with "ve elements: people, systems should not be considered as a &one-shot' ap-
strategy, structure, rewards and processes proach. Continuously improving organizations and
Continuous improvement and change process work systems, especially in the context of &turbulent'
environments, should be the aim of organizational
Similar concepts Vink et al. (1998a): `successfula company
Healthy organizations (Cooper and Cartwright, 1994;
designers. This issue of change process is discussed
Cox and Leiter, 1992; Lim and Murphy, 1997; Lin- below.
dstrom, 1997; Lindstrom et al., 1998; Murphy and Finally, a company has a variety of interactions with
Lim, 1997) other companies and entities that also comprise work
Venda and Hendrick (1993): macroergonomic pro- systems. In the previous section, we have highlighted
cess for organizational design, mutual adaptation and
integration of technical and personnel sub-systems
the many di!erent trends that can a!ect work organiza-
tion and work systems. These trends put increasing
P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662 659

importance on the interfaces and interactions between e!orts are necessary to avoid super"cial strategies and
various entities (i.e. companies, work systems, people). programs and to achieve what Argyris (1977) has called
Therefore, the concept of `balancea should be extended double-loop learning. Deep continuous improvement
to the many interactions and interfaces between work e!orts require very profound changes in the entire
systems. For example, the use of information and com- organization (Zink, 1996). For example, in a recent dis-
munication technology has a major impact on where cussion on empowerment, Argyris (1998) emphasized the
workers perform their jobs. As discussed earlier, ICT can implementation of e!orts aimed at increasing internal
increase #exibility in the workplace through, for instance, commitment, instead of external commitment. Further
telework. That new form of work organization has im- research should be conducted on how to further link the
pact on the work system of people working at home, but concepts of participation and learning in ergonomics.
also on the interaction between their work system and The behavioral cybernetics literature has de"ned
their family life. Understanding these interactions and ergonomic characteristics, which are central to human
interfaces between the work system and the non-work performances as self-determination, self-regulation and
system is increasingly important. Finding the right `bal- real-time feedback control (Smith and Smith, 1966; Smith
ancea between work life and family life is not a new et al., 1994b). Self-determination indicates the need for
concept, but is becoming increasingly important because a person to exercise judgment over her/his own actions.
of changes in work organization. The study of interac- This principle is in conformity with sociotechnical theory
tions between di!erent entities and work systems is be- (Gardell, 1971; Hendrick, 1996) and participative man-
coming increasingly important in work organization and agement theory (Lawler III, 1986; Vink et al., 1992; Wil-
ergonomics (Wilson, 2000). son and Haines, 1997). Self-regulation is related to
self-determination, but de"nes the action at the level of
individual employees. This principle recognizes the need
5. Design of change process for individual &control' of the action at the personal level.
Thus, there is the requirement for providing instrumental
For ergonomists around the world, one of the biggest control and decision latitude to each individual employee
challenges is to introduce and implement long-lasting at the task level (Carayon-Sainfort, 1991; Karasek, 1979).
changes that bene"t employees. Increasingly, attention is In this control process, real-time feedback is essential for
given to the methodologies for implementing ergonom- individual employees to be able to make good decisions
ics, such as participatory ergonomics, and to the process and to direct their responses for e!ective performance. In
used to introduce and implement changes. Table 3 pres- addition, it is important to coordinate the responses of
ents the main elements of the proposed change process various individuals and groups to achieve larger organ-
design. In the work organization and ergonomics litera- izational goals. To meet such needs, Ting et al. (1971) and
ture, two concepts have emerged as critical to change Smith et al. (1994b) have de"ned system-level feedback
management and change process: participation (Eklund, parameters, which integrate the responses of many indi-
1997b; Haims, 1999; Haims and Carayon, 1998; Vink et viduals and groups to provide direction for concerted
al., 1998b; Wilson and Haines, 1997) and learning organizational e!orts. This process is called &social track-
(Haims, 1999; Haims and Carayon, 1998; Vink et al., ing' which establishes feedback and tracking mechanisms
1998b). In order to achieve a &balanced organization', for jointly meeting the objectives of the organization.
participation of all stakeholders (including the em- Such systems require coordination of these processes that
ployees) and learning at all levels (i.e. individual learning may be best mediated through, for instance, knowledge
and organizational learning) are necessary. An important computer-based systems as discussed by Bradley (1983)
question arises of how to truly implement participation and the macroergonomic approach of Hendrick (1986,
and learning to foster both individual and corporate 1996). In addition, this process of social tracking within
health and performance. Deep continuous improvement a group and among groups using dynamic feedback may
produce positive results in organizational cohesion
and cooperation, therefore achieving a `balanced
Table 3 organizationa.
Design of change process A `balanceda organization can be achieved when em-
ployees are encouraged to take initiative in order to
Theoretical basis Participatory ergonomics and participation
Behavioral cybernetics
(continuously) improve their work systems, and the over-
Organizational learning all organizational design (Frohman, 1997). Individual
initiative and self-determination can be achieved through
Main concepts Participation and learning participation and can allow for employee self-regulation.
Self-determination, self-regulation and real-time The change process should also provide real-time feed-
feedback control
Networks
back and dynamic feedback for achieving proper re-
sponses at the individual and organizational levels. In
660 P. Carayon, M.J. Smith / Applied Ergonomics 31 (2000) 649}662

order to implement these feedback mechanisms at all a signi"cant role in solving the major ecological and
levels of an organization, one could use, for instance, the social problems of the world (e.g., population pressure,
principles of &High Involvement Management' of Lawler pollution, water shortage, urbanization). According to
(1986). Lawler (1986) proposed that participative man- Moray, `The task of ergonomics is to design a lifestyle
agement needs to integrate issues of information #ow, support system that elicits the behavior required to re-
knowledge, rewards and power. The integration of these duce the severity of the global problems, taking into
organizational approaches into ergonomics is an impor- account cultural and environmental features.a (p.1699).
tant area of research. Therefore, we should further expand our level of analysis
Another interesting approach for the change process is to not only include the organizational level, but also the
to build on the concept of `networksa (Gustavsen, 1998), inter-organizational level and the society level. The re-
which "ts well with the increasing attention put on inter- cent development of &Community ergonomics' (Cohen,
actions and transactions in the "eld of work organization 1997; Newman, 1997; Smith et al., 1994a) goes into that
and ergonomics (Drury, 1998; Smith and Carayon- direction.
Sainfort, 1989; Wilson, 2000). Gustavsen (1998) empha-
sizes the construction of networks to implement change
and development in the area of quality of working life. He
discussed a Norwegian research program which is based References
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