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What is Occupational Health Psychology?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Occupational health psychology (OHP) is a specific discipline within the field of psychology which is aimed at creating healthy work environments for employees. As a field that combines human psychology and occupational health sciences, occupational health psychology helps to assure a worker’s physical safety, while also creating work environments that support strong mental and psychological health. Occupational stress is known to negatively affect employee morale while simultaneously having a negative impact on a company’s bottom line. Individuals who specialize in occupational health psychology are, therefore, often consulted with to decrease employee stress while, at the same time, lowering the frequency of employee sick days or reducing the likelihood of a company losing employees due to an unhealthy work environment.

As a specialized field of study, psychologists trained in occupational health psychology are well-acquainted with the dynamics of human behavior in the workplace. Some of the issues that frequently arise in a job setting, such as workplace bullying, workplace stress and workplace aggression can be avoided by consulting with an occupational health psychology professional before issues arise. When such situations do occur, however, a professional can also be useful in determining which, if any, workplace stressors may have led to conflicts among workers. Besides consulting directly with an OHP professional, many books and seminars are available to help guide companies in creating better work environments, as well.

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Many companies deliberately employ the knowledge gained by years of practical research within occupational health psychology to create brand new work environments that not only attract quality employees, but that also help improve overall productivity in the workplace. Some of the ways in which this information may be incorporated into a workplace may include on-site daycare for the parents of young children, brightly colored employee break rooms, on-site fitness facilities, group recreational activities and may even include mechanisms that allow employees to telecommute on a part-time basis. Research has indicated that offering these benefits to workers helps employees discover a comfortable work-life balance, as well as decreases workplace stress while improving employee loyalty, retention and productivity at the same time.

Occupational health psychology is also useful in developing standard operating procedures. Rules regarding workplace safety, ergonomics, organization and ethics are often developed in consultation with OHP professionals or written guides that address these issues. Moving beyond the workplace, occupational health psychology has further been useful in the development of laws pertaining to matters such as workplace bullying and the development of key workplace safety standards.

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