What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘hazardous working environment’? A busy construction site, maybe, or working in a hazardous mine? Office work was probably not one of the options that came to mind but your office environment may in fact be potentially damaging to your health.
The physical way in which you’re working in your office can be bad for your body. Sitting at your desk all day can put you at risk of muscular skeletal disorders, and if you slouch, your poor posture can lead to arthritis. Typing excessively is a well-known cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause permanent damage and muscle wasting. Using your mouse can lead to repetitive strain injury, and if you think you can switch to using your smartphone to avoid health problems, I’m afraid you’re wrong. Using a smartphone to text and email can lead to ‘Blackberry Thumb’, a type of repetitive strain injury which can damage the tendons in your hands.
This may all sound very grim, but these problems can be avoided. The best way to prevent health disorders with your skeleton and muscles is to keep a good exercise regimen. Take regular breaks, and use wrist and back supports. Consider taking up yoga, which encourages good blood flow to aching muscles and has been proven to be effective for chronic back pain.
Working in an office also presents other dangers to your health. A busy office is a breeding ground for thousands of types of bacteria. The air inside an office building can be up to 100 times dirtier than outside, exposing workers to pollutants, toxic particles, black ink from printers, dangerous bacteria and mould flying around freely. High-traffic areas, like doorknobs, elevator and printer buttons, handshakes, and your keyboard, are covered in germs, especially if they’re not cleaned regularly. The health dangers aren’t confined to germs and infections – your own lunch can damage you. Having a convenient fast-food lunch usually has around double the calories to other lunches, and they have a lot of oxidised fat, which increases the risk of heart disease.
To ease your worries, it is very unlikely that you’re going to catch a rare disease and drop dead in your office. Taking a few precautions will greatly decrease the chances of falling sick from being exposed to something unpleasant though. Regularly cleaning your equipment, having hand sanitizer in your desk, and eating a nutritious diet will all keep your immune system in tip-top shape and help avoid the prospect of heart problems – especially if you’re keeping to an exercise routine.
How you work has also been found to damage your health. Working for over ten hours per day, as many do, increases your risk of cardiovascular problems by up to sixty percent. Endlessly staring at your computer screen can harm your vision, and may increase your likelihood of experiencing migraines. Those tight deadlines that are making you stay at work for ten hours or more can have a terrible effect on your learning and memory, and high levels of stress are not good for your heart. And, on top of all that, there’s the risk of just being really, really bored. A study from the University College London found that those who complain of boredom are more likely to die young and are at higher risk of workplace accidents.
The only solutions for boredom, stress, and work overloads are to take frequent breaks and have good means of de-stressing yourself when you get back home. Go for a walk on your lunch break. At home, indulge in a hot bath, or a craft hobby, or something that you really enjoy.
If you look after your own health and wellbeing, there is no reason for your office environment to be damaging to your health.