You wouldn’t think about office work whilst hearing the words “health problems” and “working” in the same sentence. Usually, you would think about very labour intensive work or even working with hazardous substances. However, it is not just the jobs that can quickly lead to health problems or fatalities that are dangerous, there are also jobs with creeping health risks including mental and physical conditions, and office work is the most common one.
#1 Sedentary Work
Sedentary working carries various even life-threatening risks ranging from obesity and back pain to heart diseases and cancer. If you find yourself in a 40-hour full-time job you are very likely spending most of the day sitting at your desk usually in an unnatural posture. Even if you do sports or walk the dog before and after work you can’t fully undo the damage that has been done in between, but there are exercises and even furniture helping with damage control.
How to Avoid health risks caused by sedentary work
Get up as much as possible and even if that means going to the printer twice or making a coffee round. Also, try to avoid sitting in your breaks and go for example for a stroll every so often. Whilst you are sitting at your desk you can do exercises for a better back and neck posture as well as to stretch your muscles. The NHS proposes a few exercises you can do at your desk, which you can check out on their website.
On top of avoiding to sit as much as your daily work routine allows, you or your employer could invest in a Sit-to-Stand-Desk. These are becoming more and more affordable and offer you the possibility to easily adjust the height of the desk from a normal one to a standing desk giving you the opportunity to stand up whilst working at your desk.
#2 Stress & Mental Health
Within the last 10 years, there has been a 44% increase in workers reporting work-related stress, depression or anxiety and 91 million working days are lost every year due to mental health problems in the UK alone. With the digital age evolving further and further, processes are sped up and everyone demands everything as quickly as possible which can be overwhelming and leave you feeling burned out.
How to avoid or minimise Stress & Mental Health problems caused by office work
It is important to create a supportive environment. Although this is naturally not achievable by one person alone, a gesture can go a long way and it starts with asking your workmates how they are and if you are in doubt, ask twice.
On top of simple habits like these, there are also courses offered by institutions like Mental Health First Aid England increasing the awareness around mental health problems as well as guidance on how to provide first aid when someone is facing a mental health crisis.
If you are the one suffering it is important to speak to someone you trust. It can take a lot of weight from your shoulders to share your problem and maybe get a different perspective on things.
#3 Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Two-thirds of UK office workers will suffer from a repetitive strain injury (RSI) at some point in their career and on average six people a day leave their jobs due to RSIs. An RSI can occur at any body part but some are more likely to occur than others depending on the activity. The most common strain injury caused by office work is the so-called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when there is pressure on a nerve in your wrist that causes tingling, numbness and pain in your hand and fingers.
How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome caused by repetitive work
To avoid getting the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you can wear for example a wrist splint. These are available in pharmacies or online and cost around £10. A wrist splint helps your wrist to stay in a straight position and reduce the pressure on your nerves. Alternatively, you can also exercise your hands and fingers to avoid repetitive movement. You could, for example, use a Hand Exerciser (everyone in our office has one) or a stress ball every once in a while.
#4 Eye Strain
Eye Strain is a condition that involves an overstrain of the ciliary muscle in the eye that is responsible for the accommodation of viewing objects at different distances. This muscle can be overstrained if you are reading or working very focused on, for example, your computer. Symptoms of this condition can range from headaches over blurred vision to fatigue.
How to Avoid Eye Strain caused by concentrated work
A simple exercise to support your eyes is to look at a distant object in the office at least every 30 minutes for a couple of seconds or to get up from your desk as much as possible. Sometimes neon lights and monitors carry an unnatural amount of blue light that can irritate the eyes on top of the mentioned reasons. To reduce the impact on your eye you can get special glasses and even apps that block the blue light. On most PCs and smart devices, you can also reduce the blue light by turning on the night mode in your settings.
As you can see office work can be quite dangerous. However, with a little bit of awareness and self-discipline, you can mitigate these risks to ensure a happy and healthy life in and outside the office.