The average office worker today is faced with a role that requires so little physical exertion that it is leaving employees with potentially serious health problems. Sedentary, yet often stressful, work environments can lead to numerous health problems. These include a wide variety of medical ailments such as back pain, eye strain and even sleep problems.
As people spend nearly one-third of their adult lives at work, it’s essential to address these issues and work towards preventing them. Here are some of the top office related health risks and steps that can be taken to prevent them:
Bacteria - we’ve probably all heard the horror stories that the average desk is 400 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Whilst worrying enough, it becomes potentially very serious when you consider the number of people who eat at their desk. The phone comes in as the dirtiest area on your desk, with the desktop next, followed by the mouse.
Prevention here is probably the easiest of all the steps discussed, and simply requires a hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to wipe down your work surface daily. By doing this you are also protecting yourself from germs in the air from colleagues coughing and sneezing. It’s also wise to avoid the sponge in the communal kitchen sink.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - any motion that is repeated over and over again can cause injury or pain, however, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome isn’t just pain or soreness from too much typing. It’s the tingling, numbness, itching or even sharp pain caused when a nerve that runs through the forearm is compressed by swollen ligaments and bones in the wrist. Without the correct prevention, drugs or even surgery can be required.
To prevent this you should regularly stretch to release tension. Contrary to what many believe, your wrists shouldn’t rest on those cushy wrist pads that sit below your keyboard or mouse pad. They should only be used as a guide to how high your wrists and hands should be whilst working.
Back Pain - sitting for hours on end without moving on a regular basis, particularly if you have bad posture, can be very damaging to your body. Back pain is one of the leading reasons for absenteeism so it’s essential to be aware of your posture when sitting at your desk. Bad posture goes beyond the obvious slouching, as sitting up straight but curving your back too much can also be a cause of lower back pain.
As well as correct posture, regular exercise including abdominal strengthening activities can relieve some of the pressure on your lower back.
Joint Problems - it’s surprising how many of us forget that the human body is designed to be active and staying in one position for too long can make joints feel tight. Getting up from your desk at regular intervals and walking around is a must and it doesn’t hurt to do a number of stretches. A good tip to make you move more often is to have items, such as a printer, away from your desk. It’s simple things too like getting up to talk to someone instead of sending an email.
Stress - being sat at a desk all day can lead even the easiest going of people to have stress. Limited levels of stress can be handled with breathing and relaxation techniques at your desk or a break outside of the office. Believe it or not, video games have been suggested as a method for easing workplace stress.
Stress can also be caused by constant noise from phones ringing, loud printers, and let’s face it annoying colleagues. A brief walk outside at lunch or time spent in a quiet area can help reduce stress levels.
Eyestrain - spending hours a day staring at a computer screen can lead to blurred vision, sensitive eyes, headaches and a sore neck. These are all symptoms of eye strain and can be prevented by resting your eyes regularly. Try reducing the glare on your monitor and increasing the font size so you don’t have to squint.
Whilst we can all probably admit, spending the day in the office is nobody’s favourite activity, however, by taking some easily implemented precautions we can prevent the office from having a major impact on our health.