You may think that sitting at your desk means that you’re safe from workplace injuries — that stuff is the problem of more physically active people. But the very same stationary work style that keeps you out of danger’s way exposes you to other, more subtle, but no less damaging injuries. Lee Suckling, writing for well&good, has compiled five medical problems that can sneak up on you as you work and what you can do to prevent them.
1. Posture issues
There’s a reason a sedentary lifestyle will cost you in health insurance premiums — it’s not healthy. Sitting all day long leads to a whole host of issues, especially when you’re not mindful of your posture, which can, all by itself, lead to back and hip problems. An organization called Get Britain Standing has a list of the top 10 health problems that can come from being too physically inactive.
To avoid this, make sure your posture is correct as you work: sit with your feet planted flat on the floor, your back up straight, and your keyboard at a comfortable height. If you don’t have the chance to get up and move around often, make sure you get exercise outside work hours.
2. Eye issues
In addition to the fact that computer monitors are very bright, they also reflect ambient light your way, so it’s all too easy to strain your eyes by staring at one for too long. Dry eyes, blurry vision, or eyes that sting are signs that you’ve got something to remedy. Eyedrops — artificial tears — can refresh your eyes temporarily, but they’re not a solution.
There are a few things you can do. First of all, make sure to take regular breaks to give your eyes a rest. Be aware of how your eyes feel, and be protective of their health. If you wear glasses while you work, make sure they’re optimized for the distance between you and your monitor — having a dedicated pair for computer use is often the best solution. And if they don’t feel better when you’re not working, see an ophthalmologist to make sure you’re not doing permanent damage.
Oh, boy, an office has tons of germs and bacteria everywhere. Shared paperwork, phones, desks, break room equipment, and even the ventilation and air conditioning systems all conspire to make you sick.
What can you do? Simple: wash your hands frequently and well.
4. Stress-related problems
By now we all now how toxic prolonged stress can be for you. If your workplace is stressing you out, there’s usually not much you can do to change everyone else, so, unfortunately, it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t damage your health.
Make sure to get yourself quality time outside work to depressurize. Exercise, see friends, relax, and use your vacation days to recharge your soul. If your employer offers counseling, take advantage of it — often professionals can provide you tools and insights that can help.
5. Eating problems
Eating while you work — whether it’s a meal or a snack — is a bad idea. First of all, sticking food in your mouth while you’re thinking about other things is a great way to overeat since you’re not paying attention and don’t feel like you ate at all later on. Automatic eating can be especially diabolical when you have snack foods around. And research suggests that it leaves you less able to think clearly and creatively.
So don’t eat at your desk. Go to the break room, or even better, outside. You need a break anyway, right? Don’t feel you need to skip lunch because you have so much to do. There may always be too much to do, and meanwhile, you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble.
The common thread here is to be aware of what you’re doing to keep yourself on the healthy side of all five of these threats to your well-being. By being proactive, you can save yourself a world of discomfort, illness, and injury. Or perhaps start looking into incorporating more walking meetings or introducing flexible workstations and healthy snacks as a part of your organizational culture. These simple changes will help contribute to a work environment focused around an employee’s well-being.