Ways Your Office Is Making You Sick

Ways Your Office Is Making You Sick

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office health risks

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Ways Your Office Is Making You Sick

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Working an office jobis unavoidable in some professions. Whether you like it or not, you might have to spend at least eight hours a day chained to a desk. No matter how comfortable your chair, sitting and staring at a screen for most of your waking hours is going to take its toll. It can affect you in the usual ways you’d expect (back pain, carpal tunnel, etc.), but it also has effects on your body that you might not feel right away. Your risk of certain diseases, for instance, can increase when you spend most days at a desk. You may also become exposed to more germs and have a higher risk of getting sick.

There are, of course, some things you can do to improve your situation. Taking care of your mental health is paramount, since poor mental health raises your risk of certain other conditions. Additionally, you could invest in a standing desk to mitigate the time you spend sitting, take walks periodically throughout the workday, and stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle at your desk at all times. With those tools and others in mind, it’s still important to be aware of the ways your office is making you sick.

Your office could have allergens

Your office could have allergens

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Allergist and immunologist Dr. Purvi Purikh with the Allergy & Asthma Network warns that offices are often ridden with common allergens such as dust mites and mold. “Most of us spend the majority of the week at work, and thus have extended exposure to these allergens in an enclosed space,” Purikh says. “Repeated and increased exposure can make existing allergies more severe.” In an office, you may find that your allergy symptoms (some of which you might not even realize are caused by allergies) feel worse. Purikh also notes that work environments may not be cleaned as thoroughly as home environments. Some might also be located inside of older buildings or buildings with water damage, which would increase the risk.

Sitting all day can cause disease

Sitting all day can cause disease

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Most office workers are sitting in a chair for up to eight hours every single day — a habit that, it turns out, is actually really dangerous. Sitting can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and these other 20 serious health conditions. There are some things you can do to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of living this sedentary lifestyle, such as getting up to go for walks throughout the day or using a standing desk. But it’s hard to make movement a priority in a busy desk job.

Your commute raises your health risk

Your commute raises your health risk

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How’s your commute? If it involves more than 10 miles of driving, it could be hurting you. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that driving commutes longer than 10 miles can lead to high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, depression, and anxiety. If you use public transportation, your commute could still take its toll. A study from the United Kingdom showed that commutes of over 30 minutes by bus resulted in the lowest levels of life satisfaction. And another study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that longer commutes, no matter the mode of transportation, resulted in greater levels of metabolic risk and lower levels of physical activity.

The air is probably polluted

The air is probably polluted

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Office jobs often necessitate spending long periods of time indoors. You might think that would protect you from toxins in city air — but that may not be true. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the concentrations of certain pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical concentrations of these same pollutants outdoors. These pollutants can be irritating in the short term by causing irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. They may also cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Over the long term, however, the effects can be far more serious. The EPA warns that these pollutants can result in health conditions such as respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. Of course, this is highly dependent on the building. But if you notice that you feel ill upon entering your workplace and feel fine again after you leave, you may want to bring up air quality with your supervisors.

Working long hours increases your heart risk

Working long hours increases your heart risk

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Sometimes working overtime is unavoidable, but keeping a work-life balance is important for your health. According to a study published in the European Heart Journal, people who worked 10 hours or more every day were 60 percent more likely to have serious heart troubles such as severe chest pain or a heart attack.

Your boss is raising your health risk

Your boss is raising your health risk

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Having an ineffective manager is threatening more than your sanity — it’s also threatening your physical health. Studies have linked poor management from bosses to an increased risk of heart disease in employees. The longer you work for the bad boss, the higher your risk becomes. Studies have also linked perceived unfair treatment from superiors at work to high blood pressure and poor mental health.

Working odd hours puts your health at risk

Working odd hours puts your health at risk

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If you linger in your office well past 5 p.m. and tend to arrive later in the morning, it could be taking a toll. Your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural cycle of falling asleep when it’s dark out and waking up when the sun rises) is thrown off by irregular work hours; researchers found that people with later wake times and later bedtimes had a larger amount of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress hormones are a natural response, but elevated levels of them can negatively impact your health over time. The National Sleep Foundation says that the negative effects of working night shifts can be as severe as an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and ulcers.

Your computer screen is harming your vision

Your computer screen is harming your vision

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Staring at a screen all day can have debilitating effects on your eyesight. People who spend long periods of time looking directly at harsh light from electronic screens are at risk for what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome. According to the American Optometric Association, this may result in uncomfortable symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. While these symptoms may disappear once you stop staring at the screen, some symptoms may persist such as poor vision quality. To prevent losing your vision over the long term, try following the 20-20-20 rule, which entails taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.

Being inside all day messes with your sleep

Being inside all day messes with your sleep

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Sunlight is healthy for multiple reasons, one of which is its impact on your sleep schedule. Holed up in your office all day, you’re probably not getting as much sunlight as you need. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, employees who didn’t get exposure to sunlight at work slept an average of 46 minutes less each night, and the sleep they did get was less restful.

Boredom is literally killing you

Boredom is literally killing you

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Do you often find yourself feeling bored and listless at work? It is possible to be literally bored to death. A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that people who reported being bored more often were more likely to die an early death.

Your keyboard has a lot of germs

Your keyboard has a lot of germs

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If you don’t clean your keyboard regularly, it could be harboring all kinds of germs. Some evaluations show that keyboards could have 20,000 times as many bacteria as a toilet seat! Those germs could leave you with anything from E. coli to a bad case of the sniffles. So get to cleaning. And while you’re at it, clean up the lesser-noticed surfaces of your home that also have more bacteria than the average toilet.

Typing too much can give you carpal tunnel syndrome

Typing too much can give you carpal tunnel syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand and arm. It’s caused, in many cases, by typing too much on a keyboard. If you sit at a desk all day typing away, you may be at risk. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome can be extensive and even require surgery.

Open office plans spread germs

Open office plans spread germs

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Open office plans are becoming increasingly popular, but they may not be the healthiest set up. Studies show that offices with open floor plans have 62 percent more used sick days than do offices with closed quarters.

Uncomfortable shoes can cause injury

Uncomfortable shoes can cause injury

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Wearing high heels may give your look a professional edge, but you’re sacrificing more than comfort. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, high-heeled shoes can cause bunions, knee pain, and lower back pain. The higher the heel, the more likely the wearer is to sustain an injury.

Your desk gives you back pain

Your desk gives you back pain

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Many people sit at their desks with poor posture. This can add pressure to the lower back over the long term, causing back pain and other problems. Prolonged slouching can cause nerve constriction or even a misalignment of the spine. Getting up periodically to stretch your legs can help; you might also try some of these tactics to avoid sitting for too long every day.

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