Industrial-organizational psychology involves the study of human behavior in groups in the workplace. During a crisis such as the COVID-19 outbreak, industrial-organizational psychology could better prepare business owners with insight into developing a productive remote work environment, becoming a better virtual manager, and using best practices to engage employees.
To help businesses in these areas, experts in industrial-organizational psychology (sometimes called I/O Psych) have put together resources for navigating this unprecedented time. Even as some workers return to offices, it’s likely that remote working will remain a part of the working world for the foreseeable future.
Those who earn a Master of Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology have the expertise to help organizations handle a crisis. They also develop strategies for organizations to maximize productivity and create better workplace environments during “normal” times. The advantages of I/O Psych are reflected in federal government projections that call for a 13% increase in the number of I/O psychologists by 2028.
“In recent years, businesses have increasingly discovered the value of work done by I/O psychologists,” said Gina Possin, M.S., Program Director of I/O Psychology at Marian University. “And now, the COVID-19 outbreak has clearly shown the advantages of understanding workplace behavior and how I/O psychology can help. Organizations are turning to I/O professionals, more now than ever, to help redesign jobs and consult on organizational changes and difficulties they face. I/O Psychology professionals have the ability to help organizations through these change interventions while understanding the psychological effects on employees, so we can help create better work environments for employees, making them healthier, happier, and more productive.”
How I/O Psych Could Have Helped With The Pandemic
For many businesses, it’s been a struggle dealing with the sudden changes caused by the coronavirus outbreak. In the space of just a few weeks – in some cases, just days – organizations transitioned from business-as-usual to an at-home workforce. The abrupt change presented challenges for managers and employees alike.
The Society For Industrial and Organizational Psychology prepared tips and best practices for remote work that can help guide businesses. They include information in the following areas. Each is backed by the latest in I/O science.
Developing A Productive Remote Work Environment
Employees have transitioned from working in an office to working at their kitchen table. Even in these conditions, I/O Psych offers guidance in creating successful remote work environments by leveraging findings from years of study into what creates the best work outcomes.
They have found working from home actually increases an employee’s perception of autonomy and improves job performance. But remote work proves most successful when organizations give employees a strong sense of self-efficacy (belief in their ability to complete tasks) and encourage workers to foster self-efficacy.
Organizations also have to change how they judge productivity – not by how often an employee is seen, but by how much they accomplish.
Engaging the Workforce
When attempting to engage a workforce (virtually or otherwise), I/O Psych calls for keeping three main components in mind.
- Dedication: Employees should feel enthusiastic and proud of their work.
- Vigor: Employees should feel invested in their work, which helps them persist through challenges.
- Absorption: Employees should feel engrossed in their work.
To achieve this, employers must increase feedback to employees and explain how what they do is significant to the company. Employees who have more autonomy typically do better, which is why increased autonomy through remote work can prove beneficial.
Because “loss of identification with the organization” and professional isolation can cause issues, it’s important to have opportunities for employees to chat through virtual communication. This can include messaging, video conferencing, and phone calls.
Employers should use all communication channels available to mentor and support employees, as well as encourage them to take breaks while working from home.
Managing From Home
Managing people and teams provide plenty of challenges when working in the same office. For remote managers, leading from home piles on another layer of complications. I/O Psych has specific recommendations to help managers who are working from home.
Self-care. Take the time to care for yourself; otherwise, you will be in no shape to lead and support employees.
Acknowledge. Take the time to talk with employees about the challenges everyone faces and how this “new normal” is vastly different from pre-virus work.
Clear communication. Establishing the best method for communication is vital. Make sure every employee understands the communication channel that will be used.
Set goals. The pandemic may change some goals, while other key responsibilities remain. It’s important to clearly communicate goals and expectations for all remote workers.
Set boundaries. Each manager will need to set boundaries in their home between work and family time. They also will need to communicate proper boundaries for employees to set in their homes.
The Marian University I/O Psych Degree
Becoming an I/O psychologist requires a master’s degree. Marian University offers a 100% online Master of Science in Industrial Psychology program that produces graduates with expertise in advising businesses on understanding workplace behavior.
The program has 12 start times every year. Students choose new courses every four weeks. Students set the pace for completing the program, which many choose to finish in 16 months. The degree program prepares graduates for careers across many different industries. Among these are healthcare, marketing, finance, manufacturing, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Students take courses in a broad range of topics, including legal and ethical issues, experiential research and statistics, job analysis, recruiting, training and development theory, performance appraisal, and organizational planning.