Job Crafting May Be an Under-Utilized Strategy to Improve Job Satisfaction and Performance for Workers with Disabilities

A study funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

People with disabilities have lower employment rates than people without disabilities. Although some people with disabilities receive job supports from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) or other agencies, many people with disabilities may negotiate job tasks and accommodations on their own. Job crafting is an informal process of actively changing aspects of one’s job, such as job tasks (task crafting) or relationships with coworkers (relational crafting), or focusing on positive aspects of work (cognitive crafting). Workers may engage in task crafting by changing their job tasks, such as by taking on extra job tasks that fit their skills and interests or changing how tasks are performed; relational crafting by intentionally building relationships with coworkers; or cognitive crafting by focusing on positive aspects of their job or the benefits of being employed. Past research with workers without disabilities has found that job crafting may help to increase job satisfaction and productivity, leading to career growth and better engagement at work. In a recent NIDILRR-funded study, researchers looked at the extent of job crafting behaviors reported in a sample of workers with disabilities. They wanted to find out whether these workers with disabilities engaged in job crafting more or less than a sample of workers in the general population. They also wanted to find out what factors were associated with higher levels of job crafting for the workers with disabilities.

Researchers conducting a study of Career Self-Management Through Job Crafting for People with Physical and Mild Cognitive Disabilities reviewed survey responses from 753 working adults with disabilities across the United States. The workers were between the ages of 18 and 64, reported having a disability, and were employed at the time of the survey. On the survey, the respondents were asked how often they engaged in 15 job crafting behaviors, on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 6 (very often). These included task crafting (e.g., taking on additional tasks at work); relational crafting (e.g., mentoring new employees or organizing social events), and cognitive crafting (e.g., thinking about how their job gives their life purpose). The respondents also answered questions about the type of disability they had and how old they were when they developed their disability; their level of education; and age, gender, and race.

The researchers compared the workers’ average levels of job crafting behaviors with levels reported in a previous study of workers in the general US population. When they compared the two samples, the researchers found that the workers with disabilities in the current study reported engaging less often in task and relational crafting behaviors than workers in the general US population in the previous study. However, both groups reported engaging in cognitive crafting behaviors at similar levels; for example, thinking about the value of their work to the broader community.

When the researchers looked at factors associated with higher levels of job crafting among the workers with disabilities, they found that the workers with college degrees reported higher levels of all the job crafting behaviors than the workers without a college degree. Also, the workers with mobility and vision disabilities reported lower levels of some of the job crafting behaviors, such as taking on additional work tasks, introducing new approaches to improve their work, and giving preference to tasks that fit their skills and interests, than the workers with cognitive, hearing, or other disabilities. Finally, the workers whose disabilities started after they became adults reported thinking slightly more often about how their job gives their life purpose, compared to the workers whose disabilities started in childhood. Age, sex, and race were not associated with job crafting.

The authors noted that job crafting may be an under-utilized tool to improve job performance and satisfaction for workers with disabilities. Workers with disabilities may have difficulties engaging in relational crafting behaviors such as organizing social events or mentoring employees, as previous studies suggest people with disabilities experience limited social interactions in the workplace. They may also find it challenging to take on additional work tasks. Furthermore, some people with disabilities, particularly those with lower education levels, may be employed in lower-wage jobs that provide few opportunities for job crafting. Despite these challenges, however, job crafting may allow workers with disabilities to take more control of their accommodations at work, expand their roles and responsibilities, and improve their job performance.

The authors noted that workers with disabilities may benefit from formal training in job crafting strategies. Vocational providers may wish to incorporate job crafting training into the services that they provide. More research may be useful to identify particular challenges faced by some groups of workers, such as those with mobility and visual disabilities, and strategies for overcoming those challenges.

To Learn More

Learn more about this study and job crafting as an evidence-based VR practice from the project’s website, Positive Work Experiences Research. Workers with disabilities can also learn how to participate in testing a job crafting coaching intervention.

What Job Crafting Looks Like from the Harvard Business Review describes the three main aspects of job crafting with examples of people in different fields making changes to enhance their work experience and develop their careers. offers VR agencies easy and convenient access to a range of VR research, related data, and tools for planning, evaluation, and decision-making.

To Learn More About this Study

Brucker, D., and Sundar, V. (2020) Job crafting among American workers with disabilities. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 2020. This article is available from the NARIC collection under Accession Number J84671.

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