An office is not generally considered a dangerous work zone.
With air-conditioned rooms, electric doors, tinted windows and cushioned chairs, the modern office building is an extremely comfortable place to work.
Despite this, office work environments still pose hazards to workers’ physical and mental health. They may not be obvious enough to warrant a warning sign, but they can still cause harm.
Here are four health hazards office workers should be aware of, and the steps you can take manage the risks.
1. Sitting for too long can be risky for your physical health
When you work in an office five days a week, you are going to be spending a lot of time sitting down.
Sitting or slouching for extended periods is extremely bad for your body and can affect your posture, lead to long-term discomfort and pain. It can also contribute to medical issues such as cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders.
What is the safest way to sit at a desk for long hours?
- practice a sit, stand and walk routine every half an hour. A great posture mix is to sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes, and walk for two minutes
- practise regular stretching at your desk to circulate blood flow
- have an ergonomically designed workstation to reduce the risk of injury from strains and sedentary work.
Learn how to safely set up your workspace with this ergonomically correct demonstration.
2. Information overload at work can hurt your mental health
If you ever get the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of data presented for your brain to process, then you have experienced an information overload.
Humans today receive five times as much information each day than we did 30 years ago. And for office workers sitting in front of multiple monitors, it can feel like there is a constant stream of data flooding in.
Information overload can lead to feelings of anxiety, mental fatigue and even panic. Being inundated with constant emails, updates, notifications, reminders and requests can expose us to more information than we have time to process.
How do I stop feeling overwhelmed at work?
Here are some strategies for dealing with information overload at work:
- unplug yourself from screen time for a short period
- clear your mind with a walk or some physical activity
- turn notifications off
- be selective and prioritise your workload.
Find more tips for managing psychological hazards at work.
3. Work-related stress can lead to burnout
Office workers experience high levels of stress. Sitting all day in an unnatural position while performing complex mental activities contribute to this. And with a reduction of physical exercise throughout the day, that built up stress may not get released.
Prolonged or severe work-related stress can negatively affect job performance and cause serious health risks such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety and depression.
How to manage stressful situations at work?
- take 10 minutes away from your desk to recharge when stress builds up
- practise quiet meditation or breathing exercising for five to 10 minutes.
- try to identify if the stress is necessary, or if it is just perceived stress which is unnecessary
- ask yourself if your salary and responsibilities are equivalent to the amount of stress the job is causing.
What can managers/employers do to reduce stress at work?
Employers should regularly check for psychological health risks in the workplace by:
- undertaking one-on-one discussions with workers
- making personal observations to monitor workers’ stress levels
- reviewing past incidents of work-related stress,
- download copy of our Top 10 tips to maintain your mental health for the office.
4. Unhealthy eating at the office can affect your health
Nutrition is a personal responsibility and choice. However, working in an office provides many opportunities to establish some less than healthy eating habits.
Whether it be morning teas, afternoon teas, welcome and farewell parties, office bake-offs and birthday celebrations, there is no shortage of cakes and sweets to enjoy.
Snacking throughout the day is also a staple of the office work routine. And while an afternoon bowl two-minute noodles is a great way to have a short break and fill the hunger void between lunch and dinner, their nutritional value is questionable.
Caffeine consumption is also a popular ritual of the office, which can lead to insomnia.
Poor nutrition, unhealthy food and drinking habits can affect fitness for work as well as productivity. It can also potentially lead to long-term chronic disease.
How can I eat better in the office?
- eat a healthy breakfast in the morning. If your hunger is satisfied in the morning, you will be less likely to snack throughout the day
- make small changes to your eating habits, such as swapping a chocolate bar for a piece of fruit
- plan your meals ahead of time and bring in a healthy lunch rather than going out for fast food
- coffee is great in moderation. But try to limit your caffeine intake and abstain from coffee after lunch
- bring healthy food to an office morning tea, instead of high-calorie treats. Our favourite healthy snacks are unsalted nuts, Greek yoghurt, low-fat cheese, wholegrain crackers, unbuttered popcorn, fruit and raw vegetables
- talk to your colleagues or management about implementing a healthy eating nutrition program
- use our health and safety checklist to help identify nutrition-related hazards in your workplace.
For more advice visit our dedicated nutrition webpage.