Contemporary Occupational Health Psychology: Global Perspectives on Research and Practice

By Jonathan Houdmont; Stavroula Leka | Go to book overview

15
The Impact of Psychological
Flexibility and Acceptance and
Commitment Therapy (ACT) on
Health and Productivity at Work

Frank W. Bond Goldsmiths, University of London, U.K.

Paul E. Flaxman City University, London, U.K.

Marc J. P. M. van Veldhoven and Michal Biron Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Redesigning work and management processes in order to reduce workers’ exposure to sources of stress has long been advocated by occupational health psychologists (e.g., Cox et al., 2000). Furthermore, outcome research has demonstrated that work redesign interventions that enhance characteristics such as worker control, role clarity, workplace communication, and social support can improve both the mental health and productivity of employees (e.g., Bond & Bunce, 2001; Bond, Flaxman & Bunce, 2008; Parker, Wall, & Cordery, 2001). Despite these successes, it also seems important to address the psychological styles, or approaches, workers bring to stressful work situations. First, some sources of stress may not be completely avoidable (e.g., immovable deadlines). Second, workers’ efforts to modify stressful situations may themselves be inhibited by poor psychological coping strategies (e.g., use of avoidance strategies). Finally, work-related stress does not occur in a vacuum, and psychological styles that increase stress reactions at home (e.g., being overcontrolling and inflexible) may also result in feeling stress at work. Consistent with this line of thought, researchers investigating stress at work have found that psychological styles, such as negative affectivity and an external locus of control are reliable predictors of occupational stress (e.g., Jex, 1998).

Research by Bond and Bunce (2003) confirms the significance of these two individual characteristics in predicting stress, but it also highlights the even greater importance of another psychological style, which is beginning to receive more attention in the work-related stress literature, psychological flexibility (or flexibility); this is the ability to fully contact the present moment and the thoughts and feelings it contains without needless defense or avoidance, and, depending upon what the

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