18 Ways Your Office Job Is Destroying Your Body
By Vivian Giang and Kim Bhasin
From the printer to your keyboard, the dangers presented in an office can have real effects on your physical well-being, just as mental strains can hurt you in the long-term.
1. Sitting at your desk all day. Sitting for lengthy periods is terrible for your body. Aches and pains are the least of your problems -- it can lead to an early death. You're at a higher risk of muscular skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and more, even if you work out regularly.
2. ... And slouching is even worse. If your job requires you to sit most of the day, it's best if you get a sitting device that allows you to straighten your poor posture. If not, you're "contributing to a pool of chronic, long-term ailments -- including arthritis and bursitis."
3. Increased chances of physically hurting yourself. Although a treadmill desk may help with the risk of obesity and heart disease, these desks are also prone to increased typos and might cause you to fall more often than merely sitting in a chair.
4. Motivational meetings. In order to get workers excited about the company's mission, employers may host team-building exercises or motivational meetings. But research has shown that forcing people to feel positive for something they're unsure about can actually "highlight how unhappy they are" and, ultimately, will make them even more depressed.
5. Bad air quality in your building. The EPA calls it "Sick Building Syndrome." The air inside a building can be up to 100 times dirtier than outside, and you're exposed to a variety of unhealthy gases and chemicals. There are pollutants in the air conditioning, toxic particles, dangerous bacteria and mold all flying around, especially in buildings that aren't well taken care of.
6. Over-exposure to printers and photocopiers. Photocopiers are a source of potentially deadly ozone if the filter isn't periodically changed, and even small amounts can cause chest pain and irritation. Laser printers do too, along with toner particles that can get in your lungs and blood stream, which could lead to lung disease and other ailments.
7. Spending too much time on a hot laptop. Anyone can experience skin problems from the heat if you use a laptop on your lap instead of a desk or stand, but there's particularly concerning news for men. NYU researchers found that laptops can raise the temperature of the scrotum, which would affect a man's sperm count.
8. Working for over 10 hours per day. European researchers found that people who work 10 hours or more every day have a 60 percent greater risk of a multitude of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and angina.
9. Endlessly staring at a computer screen. Even though computer screens don't give off radiation, the strain from staring over long periods of time can cause harm to your vision, though many effects are temporary. Beyond that, you can also experience headaches and migraines.
10. Being exposed to way too much light. Over-illumination can cause you many more problems than an everyday headache. Our body treats over-illumination as total darkness, so it messes with our internal clocks. Health problems can include a particularly high level of fatigue, stress, high blood pressure and an increased risk of certain carcinomas.
11. Being really, really bored. Boredom can actually shorten your life, according to researchers. A study from University College London showed that those who complain of boredom are more likely to die young, and those who report high levels of tedium are much more likely to die from heart disease or stroke. It also puts you at higher risk for workplace accidents.
12. Dirty keyboards. Keyboards can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not kept clean. Microbiologists found that keyboards can even have up to five times as many bacteria as a bathroom, and can include dangerous ones like e.Coli and coliforms -- both commonly associated with food poisoning -- along with staphylococcus, which causes a range of infections.
13. Germs in high-traffic areas. Your keyboard isn't the only bacteria farm in the office. Door and faucet knobs, handles, elevator and printer buttons, hand-shakes and more all are hotspots for bacteria. Microbes are everywhere, and some can even kill you.
14. Typing too much. Excessive amounts of typing is a well-known cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a painful wrist strain that can go up your arm. CTS can get bad enough to cause permanent nerve damage and muscle wasting.
15. Tight deadlines. You get stressed out when you have to meet a strict deadline, which can affect your learning and memory according to Science Daily. This sort of short-term stress can be just as bad as stress that lasts weeks or months.
16. Keeping your mouse in the same spot. If your mouse stays in the same spot all day, you can be prone to repetitive strain injury. Upper limb RSI occurs when your tendons are straining more than they should for long periods of time, which can be because of movement repetition, a sustained awkward position, or prolonged pressing against hard surfaces.
17. Smartphone overuse. People who use their smartphones heavily to text and email are prone to muscle fatigue and "Blackberry Thumb," which is a type of RSI. The effects can get so bad that the pain can reach all the way up to your wrist and can be utterly debilitating to your hands.
18. Eating fast food for lunch. Most office-folk go out for an unhealthy lunch once in a while -- some more than others, but even the occasional indulgence has its negative effects. A portion of fast food usually has around double the calories to another similar food of the same size, and they have a lot of oxidized fat, which increases the risk of heart disease.The Dangers of Sitting
Ergotron's informative site, JustStand.org, provides ample medical research indicating that prolonged sitting increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even death. Here are other shocking statistics:
- People who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40 percent increased risk of death in the next three years, compared with people who sit for four hours or less.
- Workers who have held sedentary roles for more than 10 years have twice the risk of colon cancer.
- The longer people sit, the shorter their lifespan, even if they exercise regularly.
- Sitting for long periods may also affect the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Want to know how much you sit? Try out this Sitting Time Calculator to find out.
How to Stand Up Against Sitting Disease
Before you quit your desk job in favor of your health, arm yourself with information about how you can reduce your risk of health issues that sitting can cause. The key is being more active. But be aware: even if you consider yourself active now (meaning you spend 30 minutes or more a day engaging in physical exercise), you're still considered high risk if you spend eight to 10 hours a day sitting.
If possible, aim for more exercise, especially on the days you're sitting for work. Walking, hiking, biking and swimming are all excellent forms of exercise that counter the effects of sitting.
Also, look into standing and walking more at work and at home. Rather than call or IM a co-worker, walk over to her office. Park farther away in the parking lot so that you have another opportunity to walk. Invest in a FitBit or other pedometer device and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Stand up while watching TV, or at least during commercial breaks. Build activity into your day, even if it's in five-minute bursts.
There are also products available that let you stand, sit and stand, or even walk on a treadmill while you work on your computer. Sitting on a stability ball can also engage your muscles and make sitting a more active event.
Don't let the idea of Sitting Disease scare you. Make it an excuse to be more proactive about your health, both at the office and at home. Find opportunities to get up from your desk, or to work while standing (don't make going to the break room for a piece of birthday cake your excuse). Being aware of your health and how sitting affects it can help reduce the risk of the diseases that a sedentary lifestyle can bring, and being more active can have the added perk of better health and fitness, as well as weight loss.