If you thought you were safe from health hazards in your plush, modern, swanky, upscale, all-amenities-provided office, think again. The average working environment may be affecting your health in more ways than one.
Most of us spend our working hours in environments we cannot completely control, whether it is in front of a cash counter, a client or a computer screen. With stress-related-illnesses and ‘burnouts’ becoming a common occurrence, it becomes important to be aware of health hazards, physical and otherwise, that can give you quite a nasty surprise.
Here are some office health challenges and ideas on how to beat them.
For your eyes only
We can’t do without computers - they make our work easier but they can also cause vision problems. Computer users risk tired, red eyes, burning, and blurred or double vision. Studies say people blink up to 60 percent less often while looking at the screen, causing dry-eye symptoms. Not to mention, dry air, paper dust, and ventilation fans adding to the problem.
Solution: Look away from the screen and at a distant object (greenery works best) at least every 30 minutes. Use eye drops (after consulting a doctor) if you feel strained. Also, for those who wear reading glasses, please get a pair specially designed for the distance you sit from the screen.
Watch your back
More often than not, our office chairs are just not ergonomically designed. Sitting too long in an improper posture can provoke both acute and chronic backache. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, psychology also plays a big role in chronic pain. The report says a backache can be a sign of boredom or unhappiness at work.
Solution: Ergonomics is the word! Adjust the height of your chair and keyboard, and check their distance from the screen. If you’ve adjusted your workstation and it still doesn’t work, try getting more exercise outside work to improve your mood, adds the WHO report. For relief from shoulder pain, place your screen at eye level, about an arm’s length from your eyes. And try a wireless headset for your phone. Also make sure the placement of your keyboard doesn’t make you hunch up.
The air you breathe
The air you breathe is not really as safe or clean as you think. A lack of ventilation and dust and mould in carpeting can also cause problems like asthma or allergic bronchitis.
Solution: Keep your office floor as dust-free as possible, especially your workstation or cubicle, and make sure the ventilation system isn’t blocked.
According to a study, even low-level noises in open offices can often result in stress. Even if you have a cubicle to yourself, it is not soundproof.
Solution: Explain to colleagues that it is vital to keep noise levels to a minimum. Use headphones if you’re listening to music. Try to limit phone calls, use a hands-free device if possible, and speak in a low tone instead of holding loud conversations. Avoid shouting across the room to catch another colleague’s attention.
Cut the junk out
Yes, a bag of chips and a can of an aerated drink during breaks are really tempting but they can cause more harm that you think. You not only tend to overeat but also end up eating the wrong food.
Solution: Do not mix eating with work. Eat away from your desk and take enough time to chew your food. Studies have shown that the more you snack, the more you tend to put on weight. If you are the kind who likes to snack, carry a fresh fruit, carrot sticks, or any other healthy alternative of your choice.
Be it the ‘bossy’ boss, office bully or a non-cooperative co-worker, one bad apple is enough to ruin the entire office’s environment and cause enough stress to land you in the hospital. Everyone feels stress related to work, family, decisions, your future, and more. Stress contributes to diseases like hypertension and heart diseases, while causing problems with sleep and headaches in the short run.
Solution: Be calm and face the situation head on. Remember, no workplace is without its flaws and the calmer you are, the better you can deal with any problem at hand. Also, make sure you don’t take any work home. Practise deep-breathing exercises and indulge in outdoor sports activities with your family and friends. This will help you destress and prepare you to handle all those painfully annoying moments at work.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)