Occupational Health

Occupational health

A field of its own by mid-20th century

Productivity of workforce depends on health of workforce

The purpose of OHP is to develop, maintain and promote the health of employees directly and the health of their families

The primary focus of OHP is the prevention of illness or injury by creating safe and healthy working environments.

Mental health of the industrial worker” (by Kornhauser)

Organizational health

Intrinsic value of work

value found in actually performing the work

Instrumental value of work

value provided by enabling individuals to express, maintain, and advance talents, abilities and knowledge

Positive psychology

Aims to study positive aspects of human thinking and behavior

Ex. illness prevention vs wellness promotion

Obviously, OHP is focused on employees.

As psychologists, we know they’re the most aspect of the org.

Companies will rarely adopt a policy or practice simply because it makes “good” sense

How do we convince companies that employee health and well-being are important?

Environmental influences on mental health

Opportunity for control

Two key elements

way over you behave. You can do something the way you wish. You control your own actions.

You understand the connection with how you behave and the consequences that follow.

Opportunity for skill use

lack to use skills you know

lack to learn new skills

Externally generated goals

Setting own goals and steps on getting there

Environmental variety

choices and options

Environmental clarity

Two aspects of clarity

Availability of money

not having money impairs mental health by limiting amount of control and number of choices available to a person

Physical security

workers need to feel safe when they work

Opportunity for interpersonal contact

workers should NOT feel isolated

Valued social position

people derive self esteem from the contributions they make


stress can cause many undesirable outcomes in both employee health and organizational outcomes

stress is a known contributor to multitude of physical and psychological problems

types of stress





Stressful or demanding situations cause a fight or flight reaction causing a release of hormones

in small doses, these hormones can produce positive effects, heightened memory, increased immunity, and lower sensitivity to pain

extended or chronic release produces impaired cognitive ability, low blood sugar, high blood pressure, and lowered immunity

Need for recovery


any physical or psychological demands which an individual responds


reaction or response to stressors

sources of stress

time, as a limited resource, is at the core of OH

finding and maintaining balance is the goal

Industrial Revolution to blame for the “great divide”?

The concept of mental health

Affective well-being

Pleasure and arousal


being successful in various areas of life


freedom to choose path of one’s own behavior


always trying to achieve a better outcome

Integrated functioning

overall balance, harmony, and inner relatedness

Work/family conflict

Conflict resulting from the attempted balance between work and family.

Only of interest to IO for the last 30 years

What is a family?

Rarely are we able to fully give to both domains, creating guilt and more conflict.

Cross-cultural differences

The effect of work on family      

The effect of family on work              

The family-work interaction                      

Conceptual models of the relationship between work & family

Spillover Model

each domain spills over into the other               

Compensation Model

what is lacking in one domain, is compensated by another

Segmentation Model

each domain is segmented, or separate, from the other  

individual can be successful in one domain and not the other    

Gender differences in work/family conflict

job satisfaction: women- r=.35 men r=.29

life satisfaction: women – r= .42 men r= .32

Employees perceiving Work family conflicts are 30 times more likely to experience a clinically significant mental health problem

If there are high demands in both domains (as is often the case), how do you get it all done?

Assistance in reducing work/family conflict   

Adjusting work schedules

Child-care centers

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Elder-care programs   

Dual-career families

Gender differences

Differential investment in career and family

Lack of temporal control

Work schedules

Shift work

Rotating shifts


humans and society are diurnal (awake during the day and asleep during the night)

daylight has a cuing effect to initiate wakefulness

circadian system is slow to adjust to night work

Forward v. backward rotation


from day to night to afternoon shifts


from day to afternoon to night



Everyone must be at work during these hours


latitude allowed on whether workers are at work during these hours

Compressed workweek

4 10hr days as opposed to 5 8hr days

Most of the burden lies with employees

But time management, to-do lists, and trying hard is not sufficient

another OHP goal needs to include providing employees with additional skills to facilitate WFB

Alcoholism and drug abuse in the workplace

Research is limited

4-5 million people in the US use cocaine monthly; marijuana is much more frequently

$50 billion dollars is spent annually on employee substance abuse programs

Substance abuse

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

recognizes former drug use as a disability and protects past users

Employee assistance programs (EAP)

IO is most concerned with drug abuse and performance impairment

Psychological effects of unemployment

current economic conditions have created large-scale job loss domestically and globally

Unemployment diminishes many opportunities individuals need to thrive

Job loss and decreased mental health: r=.36

Job gain and increased mental health: r = .54

Intended consequences of employment

Unintended consequences of employment                        

Unemployment & loss of discretionary control                    

Relationship between unemployment & mental health

Child labor and exploitation

Use of child labor in foreign countries

Fair Labor Standards Act

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