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Examining Social Networks in Workplace Safety and Health: Why and How?

Friday September 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM PT, 2:00 PM ET

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Social support refers to the exchange of tangible and intangible resources between people who belong to the same households, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, organizations, and other environments. Social support has been identified as an important resource for dealing with life stressors, especially for working people. Workers with adequate social support tend to experience greater feelings of personal accomplishment, job satisfaction, engagement, and self-esteem. When social support is sufficient, workers also report better physical health and lower levels of stress, burnout, emotional exhaustion, depression, and inter-role conflict.

What is less clear, however, is why and how social support offers these protective effects for workers' physical and emotional well-being.

Social network research methods can help us begin to answer these important questions. Through social network studies, we can: 1) investigate the structural characteristics of workers' support systems; 2) understand how and why certain associations and interactions influence workers' health-related attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors; and 3) identify potential leverage points for future workplace safety and health interventions.

This session will use lecture and recent research findings to introduce attendees to the applications of social network research techniques in workplace safety and health science and practice.

You will learn:

  • Basic characteristics of social network research
  • Methods for structuring effective whole network and personal network research designs
  • Approaches for analyzing social network data
  • Practical applications of social network research techniques in workplace safety and health science and practice​

Take home messages:

  • Investigating the structural characteristics of workers' social networks helps us understand how and why social support buffers the effects of work-related stress.
  • We can use social network research techniques to inform future scientific studies and design more effective workplace safety and health interventions.


Jessica MK Streit​, PhD Cand.​

Research Psychologist, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), & Assistant Coordinator of NIOSH’s Healthy Work Design and Well-being Program

Jessica MK Streit, MS, PhD cand., is a Research Psychologist with the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Assistant Coordinator of NIOSH’s Healthy Work Design and Well-being program. She is a recipient of the NIOSH Director’s Award for Extraordinary Intramural Science in the Early Career Scientist category, and her research interests include social networks and health, psychological detachment and work recovery, and advancing the use of theory as a blueprint for occupational health research and practice.  Jessica earned her MS in industrial/organizational psychology from Northern Kentucky University in 2007 and is now in the last year of her doctoral candidacy in health education at the University of Cincinnati. Her dissertation research applies the expanded stressor-detachment model (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2015) as a framework for investigating pathways to enhance professional engagement and health for early career teachers.



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Last Modified: 1/26/2018 3:58 PM