For as long as offices have been around, corporate workers’ health at the workplace has been an often-overlooked concern. This has changed in recent years however, as prioritizing employee health has risen alongside the concepts of self-care and knowing one’s self-worth. The pandemic exacerbated this, pushing the importance of employee health to the very front of businesses’ worries, and rightfully so.
There are definitely a few common health problems for office workers, and in this article, they will be explored along with some methods of preventing them.
Common health problems for office workers
One of the most common ailments for office workers is the dreaded headache. Headaches can be caused by many things: a lack of fresh air, too much staring at a computer screen, stress, and even poor body posture.
Pretty much the only way to prevent headaches, no matter their cause, is taking regular breaks. A break every hour or so means that employees can stand up stretch, maybe have a small walk around the office, and about once or twice a day, get some fresh air.
Beyond this, the recommendations are generally: good posture, a daily workout, and workplace yoga.
Back pain, specifically lower back pain
Office workers’ posture is generally quite poor. This is mostly because of subpar office equipment, a lack of awareness, and workers looking for any way to feel comfy (because yes, slouching can feel good – but only in the short term). Poor posture and a sedentary job almost always lead to back pain.
The long hours spent sitting at a desk means that employees are prone to slouching, which puts a lot of pressure on the back and hips, leading to backache.
Preventing back pain starts with the right chairs. They should be soft enough to be comfortable, but firm enough to provide support, as well as having appropriate lumbar support that can counter back pain.
Employees should also take regular breaks to move around, and avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.
Another of the most common health problems for office workers, employers spend more than 7.4 billion USD every year treating neck (and back) pain. It can happen when employees spend a lot of time looking at a screen that isn’t the right height for them. When a computer screen isn’t at an employee’s specific eye level, their neck is usually what compensates for it.
Employees can make sure to raise or lower their screen(s) to sit at their specific eye level. It doesn’t take changing their monitor, it can sometimes be as simple using a few sturdy books to raise the monitor to eye level. It may also be an issue caused by the height or nature of the chairs that they are using.
And of course, long hours spent staring at a screen can leave office workers feeling like the spreadsheet they’re looking at is burning into the back of their skull. The human body is made to move, and the eyes are meant to move a lot. When they’re being used to stare at a screen for hours on end, they can become blurry, overly sensitive, overly dry or watery, and just plain painful.
One way to prevent eyestrain is to increase font size so that the eyes don’t have to work as hard. Using dark mode wherever possible also really helps. But of course, the only real way to prevent eyestrain is taking regular breaks. This can look like staring at something far away for a minute every half an hour, or closing the eyes every hour or so.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
CTS is usually described as continuous pressure on the median nerve which supplies movement and feeling to parts of the hand. It’s caused by repeatedly performing a motion and can lead to tingling, numbness, weakness, or even muscle damage in the hand and fingers.
CTS can be treated with drugs, surgery, and acupuncture, but before all that stretching and other exercises can actually help to release whatever tension the wrists may be experiencing. Additionally, the wrists shouldn’t sit on a desk or even soft pads all the time when typing or using a computer, but only during periods of rest in between typing. At all other times, the hands should be hovering over the wrists.
There are many common health problems for office workers, but they can easily be prevented with just a few changes to habits or surroundings. The physical and mental well-being of employees must be of paramount importance not only to themselves, but also to the company that they belong to.