When we say health and safety, we usually think about construction sites, toxic chemicals, or maybe even top-security protocols. But what about the office? The occupational hazards of working in an office sometimes aren’t blatantly obvious, and that’s because they tend to build up over time without any immediately alarming effects.
But that doesn’t make them any less concerning. In fact, office environments can undermine health in ways that are chronically damaging. Below, some of the most common types of office-related health and safety hazards and how to prevent them.
Deteriorating vision: Sitting in front of a computer all day is a fact of life for most office workers. Don’t wait until you notice symptoms like blurred vision or headaches. Find out whether wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses could help you stay productive without sacrificing your eye health. When it comes to the lighting around you, people can have different preferences. Try to find that happy medium between too dim and too bright.
Back pain: Health experts have been claiming that sitting is the new smoking. And while sitting might even reduce your lifespan, it can also cause a lot of discomfort in the lower back and legs, especially if you are not keeping fit outside of work. The bad news is that sitting is probably not going away, and unless your employer is willing to accommodate an alternative option such as a standing desk (or even a treadmill desk!), you’re probably out of luck. The good news is that when it comes to sitting, making tiny changes in the way you sit can make a difference. Practice good posture and alignment, with your neck and shoulders in a straight line, feet planted on the floor. Get a chair with good lumbar support, and keep all peripherals (keyboard, mouse) within reach to avoid straining forward.
Stress: Having a physical job can be stressful, sure–but it can provide a much-needed outlet for handling stress, unlike having to bottle it in at a desk. Stress can also have secondary effects, such as lack of sleep or absenteeism. Because everyone reacts to stress in different ways, it can be particularly tough to manage. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or taking consistent breaks from work can be helpful in managing stress. Employers should solicit employee feedback to become aware of mental health concerns such as stress, and assess the health of the workplace. Employees are not powerless, either. Developing resilience strategies can help take control over how you react to a stressful situation.