What Is Organizational and Occupational Health Psychology?

The Power of a Preventive and Proactive Approach


Sara Keshavarz-moqadam, Ph.D.
Clinical, Health, Organizational Psychologist, Posted on Feb 07, 2024

Introduction to Organizational Health Psychology

Organizational or Occupational Health Psychology (OHP) explores how work characteristics influence employees' performance. OHP aims to recognize workplace stressors by applying health psychology, organizational psychology, and occupational science principles to design effective interventions addressing the increased costs of occupational stress and poor well-being. In the following paragraphs, a real-case scenario is provided to explain how a company unsuccessfully struggled with work-related stressors and spent a considerable amount of time and money without reaching the desired expectations.

"This is an organization with highly talented, educated, and well-experienced employees who passed accurate HR interviews before hiring and have access to all resources and high-tech technologies, but the outcome is lower than expected. The resignation and absenteeism rates are high; employees constantly complain about their situation and are not committed to their roles, and their performance is with less creativity and innovation. This disengagement negatively impacted the organization's success and profitability. The Senior managers wonder why these talented and well-educated employees cannot meet the expectations! To address the issue, they held a meeting with employees to receive their concerns, which referred to workload and complaints about the uncomfortable work environment. As a solution, they reduced the workload by hiring new employees to distribute the responsibilities. They also provided the workforce with the most comfortable tables and chairs, added a beer clock on Fridays, and considered bonuses for them, but the performance increased just for a few months and then relapsed to its previous state, while the company lost a significant amount of money, and time, without achieving sustainable results!"

Here is where OHP intervention can reduce extra costs and increase productivity and profitability by recognizing and eliminating the causes of the problem, not just addressing the current symptoms. Although they are not in the initial stages of their problematic pattern, preventive strategies can be helpful at any stage of the problem to stop extra costs and fill the gap between the current and ideal situation. In fact, Jalapeno was born to address one question: "Why do companies spend millions of dollars on employee engagement and training programs, yet they still lose millions of dollars due to lack of engagement and productivity??? You are losing money on both ends!!! The good news is that our team at Jalapeño, consisting of expert Organizational Psychology Consultants and Coaches, helps you to find the most cost-effective and sustainable solutions by applying OHP strategies, focusing on exploring the leadership style, organizational culture, communication skills, feedback, reward system, etc.

What Is Employee Engagement, And How It Can Affect Both Employee And Organizational Success?

Employee engagement refers to high commitment, responsibility, and enthusiasm to work, directly influencing employees’ involvement, dedication, productivity, innovation, organizational success, and profitability. According to a Gallup survey, businesses with highly engaged employees reported an 81% difference in absenteeism, a 14% in productivity, a 43% in turnover, a 10% in customer ratings, an 18% in sales, and a 23% in total profitability. Furthermore, a study by the Corporate Leadership Council reported that organizations with engaged employees experience 87% less turnover than those with disengaged employees. In addition, as the Harvard Business Review reported, companies with highly engaged employees had a 19% increase in operating income and 28% growth in earnings per share, which can result in a competitive edge! These statistics highlight the positive correlation between employee engagement and their productivity, commitment, retention, organizational financial savings, and profitability.

On the negative side, employee disengagement can adversely affect individuals' physical and psychological health, their families, the bottom line of businesses, organizational profitability, and economic loss. For example, If we do not recognize the signs of disengagement, the employee may experience increased stress, dissatisfaction, a lack of motivation, and loss of purpose. It can also affect their work-life balance because this situation can linger into personal time, leading to strained relationships and diminished overall life satisfaction, impacting spouses, children, and other family members. The main reason is that a disengaged employee may bring work stress and frustration to home, leading to a less healthy family environment, which in turn worsens the employees' mental and physical health and reduces their productivity at the workplace, which may shape an endless unproductive loop!!!

How Can Employee Engagement be Positively Affected by Organizational Health Psychology?

OHP and employee engagement are interconnected as OHP principles provide a roadmap for recognizing and addressing both psychological and physical work stressors. To resolve these stressors, OHP fosters a supportive and positive work environment, which improves work-life balance and enhances leadership style, transparent communication, and inclusive culture, that can positively impact employees' health, well-being, engagement, and productivity.

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, employees who received flexible working hours, work-life balance, and empathetic and supportive leadership perceived their workplace as supportive and positive while experiencing higher levels of psychological safety, job satisfaction, physical and psychological health, as well as commitment and engagement, which significantly affect their productivity and success.

What Is Work-Related Stressors?

Work-related stressors can be harmful to employees' mental and physical health, making them less engaged and productive. To address these stressors effectively, it is crucial to obtain a deep understanding of them and categorize them into main groups of hardware and software.
The hardware category includes objective issues, such as how the organization is set up and what the processes and structures are. Problems in this category may be conflicts between roles, unclear job responsibilities, a lack of feedback loop, disorganized meetings, and too much work. Identifying and fixing these concrete issues is crucial for improving employees' health and keeping them engaged.

The second category, software, is about cultural and interpersonal conflicts, such as communication problems, lack of support or feedback culture, and a lack of inclusive leadership etc. Fixing these issues requires a thoughtful approach to addressing the cultural and interpersonal aspects of the workplace.
OHP strategies mainly focus on these two categories. The goal is not just to deal with the symptoms but to eliminate the root causes to create a safe, secure, and positive work environment, boosting employees' health, happiness, and engagement.

How Can We Effectively Address These Stressors?

OHP provides cost-effective strategies, emphasizing on treating employee health and well-being problems or preventing these problems from occurring in the first place BEFORE the organization has to spend too much time, energy, and money to resolve the problem or deal with its consequences. In fact, OHP strategies recognize and alleviate occupational stressors to shape a healthy work environment that improves employees’ commitment, engagement, creativity, productivity, and psychological and physical health, resulting in saving money and improving performance in the long run. That may be in contrast with some of the traditional approaches of organizational psychology, resolving the issues by focusing on symptoms and suggesting solutions, such as increasing rewards, bonuses, days off, or redesigning roles and responsibilities without considering underlying reasons like how to delegate the role, when giving positive or constructive feedback, how to apply effective communication skills or when provide support to whom?!

The main focus of OHP interventions is on leadership development. Some of these interventions are briefly mentioned below:

  • Giving employees autonomy on how and when to accomplish the delegated tasks while clarifying the why and what, which can reduce stress, improve responsibility, creativity and quality of work;
  • Refining interpersonal communication by encouraging employees to question their assumptions, applying active and empathetic listening to pay careful attention to employees' concerns, and using reframing and paraphrasing techniques to reach a negotiated meaning which can shape the culture of trust and respect while increasing a sense of belongingness, morale, and engagement;
  • Enhancing specific and real-time feedback, which shows special attention to individuals and their work, improving their performance and self-awareness, and reducing their role ambiguity and stress, can result in higher levels of psychological and physical health, job satisfaction, and happiness.


Considering the evidence mentioned above, OHP offers a holistic approach to enhancing employee engagement by eliminating the root cause of the problem in the first place. As organizations recognize the relationship between employee engagement and organizational success, applying the OHP principles becomes more essential than in the past. By creating a workplace that values and prioritizes the employees’ health, well-being and happiness, organizations can foster engagement, creativity, and innovation, which can result in long-term and sustainable productivity and success both for employee and organization.

About the Author: Sara Keshavarz-moqadam believes that the effect of environmental stressors on individual performance is by no means negligible. After studying for a B.A. Clinical, an M.A. General, and a Ph.D. Health Psychology from the University of Tehran and working for many years in these fields, Sara became curious about how to help individuals reach their actual potential. To answer this question, Sara returned to school again and studied for an M.A. Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Adler University to create a novel and holistic approach relying on the principles of clinical, health, and organizational psychology to recognize and address the root causes of problems by focusing on organizational culture, leadership, communication skills, and support system. She is on a mission to improve employees' well-being, happiness, and psychological and physical health to enhance both individual and organizational success.