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Staying fit at work

Staying fit at work

September 29, 2014

Common health risks for office workers

Common health risks for office workers - Image credit: Thinkstock/iStock

Office workers are among the most unhealthy group of people in the labour market as the nature of the role means that many employees have bad health habits. However, there are measures that can be taken by staff to help reduce their risk and things that employers themselves can do to help support their employees.

But what are the health risks and what can be done?

Back problems

Most office workers spend a large amount of their day sat at a desk, usually in seats that are less than ideal. This can mean a high number of people working in this environment have aches and pains in their back, especially their lower spine.

Employees can help reduce their risk of developing severe back problems by taking regular breaks from their desk. Even just stretching your legs to make a hot drink can help the problem. Of course, it is so easy to get bogged down in work that you forget to do this, so why not take up a yoga class with some of your work friends? This will help your back and improve your posture. During the day, it’s also important to help maintain a good posture throughout the day and adjust your screen and chair to the ideal position.

Employers can help support their employees by supplying information about the best desk position, as well as providing chairs that are optimal for encouraging good posture.

Heart disease

It is common for office workers to move very little during their day, and then when they get home they are so drained that all they want to do is have their evening meal and spend time on the sofa. However, having such an inactive lifestyle can put you at a much higher risk of developing heart disease, as well as other health conditions. You are also far more likely to have problems with your heart if your workplace is a stressful environment.

To avoid this, it’s important for employees to lead a healthier lifestyle that includes getting the right nutrition, having regular exercise, and getting plenty of sleep. For companies, there are various initiatives that you can start to support to ¬†encourage your staff to be more active.

Eye strain

Sitting at a desk and staring at a screen can be the ideal environment to develop eye strain or even cause vision problems in long-term cases. To avoid having issues in this area, it’s important to take regular breaks away from your screen. Although this may seem impossible, even a short period away from your desk can give your eyes their much-needed rest. It’s also important to drink plenty of water when at your desk as this can help prevent headaches and other health problems.

Employers can help their staff by encouraging breaks every so often and ensuring there is a fresh supply of water, or water coolers, around the office. It’s also important to have the right screens for your workers to use.

Stress

Stress is a number one issue for workers in many jobs, and people in an office are no exception. It’s important for companies to keep an eye on the stress levels of their workers as this can affect other areas of health and involve employees taking time away from their role, which is not ideal for business. The best way to help control your own stress, apart from taking your regular breaks away from the office, is to try and get the ideal work-life balance. Try to do something productive in your spare time, such as reading a book or going out for a run. Doing something physical can really help to reduce your stress levels and will help you sleep well, which further improves your health.

Employers can help their employees by ensuring that the appropriate safeguards and programmes are in place to support those that are suffering from high levels of stress.

General illness

The amount of bacteria that accumulates on desks would make anyone wince, and the fact that many office workers eat at their chair, puts them at a huge risk of developing illness. Many companies now also have open plan offices, which means that sick employees can quickly infect people on their team or elsewhere.

The best way to deal with this is to go out for your lunch, which should be encouraged by employers. Companies should also ensure that they do not berate people that phone in sick, as it is best for the wider business in the long run.

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