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World first conference reveals key to happy and productive workplaces

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Smart work design is the key to battling poor mental health, worker burnout and building a more productive workplace, the inaugural Centre for Transformative Work Design Conference has been told.

Leading global scholars in work design, industry and government representatives gathered in Perth to explore how to navigate the increasing complexities of our working lives covering topics such as hybrid working, the rise of AI, staff shortages, burnout and an ageing workforce.

Director of the Centre for Transformative Work Design at Curtin University, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Sharon Parker said the conference was the first of its kind in the world and served as a catalyst for meaningful conversations and collaborations to drive positive change.

“With so many workers suffering from burnout, at the same time as slowing productivity growth in Australia, there has never been a more important time to focus on how to proactively design better quality work for Australian employees,” Professor Parker said. 

“AI programs such as ChatGPT have burst onto the scene, bringing into stark focus how disruptive new digital technologies will be and raising a raft of questions – How do we maximise the opportunities of an AI-enabled workforce? How do we know the work we’re giving people is stimulating and rewarding? And how do we ensure human connection at work?

“Against a backdrop of staff shortages, increasing workloads, and proclamations of rampant ‘quiet quitting’, a shared understanding between academia, industry and government is key to creating, sustaining and encouraging effective work design practices to meet future workplace demands.”

This year’s program highlights included a panel discussion which brought together Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute Professor Karina Jorritsma, Westpac Chief Mental Health Officer Dave Burroughs, SafeWork NSW Director of Health and Safe Design Jim Kelly and Tailored Thinking Founder Rob Baker to represent academic, industry and regulator perspectives on how to implement work design principles effectively in real-world workplaces for impactful change.

The conference explored questions, such as ‘What role does work design play in improving motivation and performance? Can work design predict the likelihood of leader emergence? Which workplace demands are causing the most burnout and what strategies can we employ to combat them?’

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Work Design for Success: Innovative Research and Leading-Edge Practice.’

The Centre for Transformative Work Design is a research centre based at Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute where researchers and professionals are working together to understand the role of work design in generating healthy and productive work.

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