Occupational Health Psychology: How can people remain healthy, motivated and satisfied with their work?

By addressing occupational health related topics, we seek to contribute to a better understanding of how sustainable employment can be fostered in today’s world of work. In our research we focus on identifying risk as well as protective factors for employee’s health and well-being and on developing and evaluating occupational health interventions. 

Specifically, our research activities focus on emotional labour, on recovery from work stress and on the role of mindfulness for workplace functioning and well-being. In studying these topics we apply different methodologies, especially those that allow studying short- and long-term dynamics and capture changes in work stressors, experiences, and behaviour over time such as longitudinal designs, experience-sampling methodology, and combinations of randomised controlled trials with experience-sampling. 

People

  • Ute Hülsheger
  • Annika Nubold
  • Sjir Uitdewilligen
  • Philippe Verduyn
  • Fred Zijlstra

Why are some teams able to adaptively respond to unexpected events while others fall apart?

We use a combination of laboratory and field research to investigate factors that contribute to team learning and adaptation. Thereby we investigate concepts, such as development and change in routines, communication patterns, cognitive structures, and adaptive leadership. Our research can be characterized as behavioural and longitudinal. We primarily apply behavioural observation methods to study teams (e.g. capturing video-recordings or using logged behavioural data) and we make use of repeated observations in order to investigate how teams develop and change over time.

People working in this research line:

  • Sjir Uitdewilligen

 

Occupational Neuroscience of Effort, Exhaustion and Recovery: Why does your brain get tired?

The predominantly mental nature of today’s work entails that employees increasingly invest mental instead of physical effort in their tasks. This leads to varying degrees of mental exhaustion, from which an employee has to recover sufficiently in order for them to remain healthy and engaged in their career. This is an important aspect which directly links this fundamental research to the broader “sustainable employability” focus of the section.

In our research, we are aiming to understand how exactly the brain gets exhausted during the investment of mental effort. While mechanisms  and effects of physical effort investment are well-understood, our research is the first that has succeeded in showing how the investment of mental effort has immediate and prolonged effects in the brain.

In our research, we use a broad array of techniques, from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) to questionnaires and accelerometric sleep trackers. For laboratory studies, we are able to simulate common and uncommon work conditions in a variety of settings from a simulated office to a helicopter simulator. 

People 

  • Tobias Otto
  • Fred Zijlstra

Sustainable employability: Facilitating people to function at work and in the labor market on the long term.

This research line focusses on identifying the factors that contribute to sustainable employability. Here, sustainable employability should be seen as a broad social construct that spans several complementary indicators in the health, well-being, competence, and employability domains. As such, a multidisciplinary perspective is indispensable. Moreover, to adequately address the notion of sustainability this integrative set of indicators is considered over longer periods of time. Thereby, aspects of an employment context (e.g., task, individual, job, and organisational characteristics) that either harm or protect an individual’s long term ability to function at work and in the labour market can be identified. In addition to and as a specific part of the sustainable employability research, inclusiveness and psychometrics in occupational health are main topics of interest.

Notable examples of fundamental research that was conducted as part of this research line include work on conceptualising and measuring sustainable employability, discussions on formative vs. reflective measurement models, and a study on age and time effects on sustainable employability. In a more applied sense, several field studies on sustainable employability have been conducted, among which one in Maastricht University itself.

People

  • Fred Zijlstra
  • Bram Fleuren

What helps leaders and employees to flourish at work? The interplay of leadership, personality dynamics, and mindfulness at work.

This research lines applies a variety of different designs and methods including experience sampling studies, randomised controlled trials, lab experiments and qualitative approaches, such as grounded theory. In one line of research, particular focus lies on the development of leaders, people with great responsibility and far-reaching impact. Do mindfulness practices improve leadership behaviour and leader-follower communication? We also try to better understand the dynamics of short-term personality expressions at work. We try to find out, for example, which daily events at work make people express the dark side of their personality and how daily expressions of positive personality influence people’s work behaviour.

People

  • Annika Nübold
  • Ute Hülsheger
  • Occupational Health Psychology: How can people remain healthy, motivated and satisfied with their work?

  • Why are some teams able to adaptively respond to unexpected events while others fall apart?

  • Occupational Neuroscience of Effort, Exhaustion and Recovery: Why does your brain get tired?

  • Sustainable employability: Facilitating people to function at work and in the labor market on the long term.

  • What helps leaders and employees to flourish at work? The interplay of leadership, personality dynamics, and mindfulness at work.