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Occupational Health Psychology

Occupational Health Psychology aims to help create healthy workplaces in which people may produce, serve, grow and be valued.

The European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology (EAOHP) supports research, education and practice across Europe. The recent Occupational Psychology conference held by British Psychological Society included a panel discussion sponsored by the EAOHP – “Insights from OHP – What Works?”.

The panel discussion focused on enhancing the wellbeing of employees at individual and organisational levels in three ways. Firstly the development of effective interventions to reduce work related stress, secondly to introduce health promotion initiatives and finally to enhance work-life balance.

The fist of theses discussed the need make workplace stress interventions, which are a complex processes, as simple as possible.  The process requires a continual cycle of initiation, screening, action planning, implementation and evaluation.

Underpinning all successful interventions are three core princliples:

  1. Participation of the employees – Stakeholders should be actively involved in all stages to ensure ownership and maximise feasibility and acceptability.
  2. Management Support – Managers have a key role in driving the intervention process and improving the working conditions surrounding it.
  3. Intervention Fit – The must be an appropriate fit between the person and the intervention. Workers can only be ready for an intervention if they have sufficient autonomy, job satisfaction and motivation to engage with the intervention.

Secondly, Workplace Health Promotions can take a number of forms e.g. Nutritional Advice, Exercise Initiatives, Mindfulness Training and so on.  The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work did a review in 2012 of these initiatives, including return on investment (ROI) calculations, that provided a clear business case for workplace health initiatives to the business community. Please contact me if you are interested in running a workplace health promotion, as I have access to many tools and examples of past, successful, interventions.

Lastly, the discussion examined the need to review the concept of a healthy work-life balance and noted that while there are many self-help books on the subject, few of these are grounded in strong research evidence.  The traditional perspective where work and personal life are clearly separated is obsolete.  Demonstrated clearly as I sit in a local coffee shop writing this piece.  That said, we do need to accommodate a wide variation of need in approaches to work from both individuals and organisations.  The key being to work on a optimal employee/organisation fit.

In conclusion, underpinning the application of Occupational Health Psychology is the need to clearly understand the work context, e.g. through work flow studies, risk assessments, etc, and also the need to actively involve managers and workers.  To improve the health and wellbeing at work we need systematic models and interventions that target the individual, managers and the organisation.

For more information visit the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology and follow them on twitter at @ea_ohp

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