3 Health Risks of Office Work
Advisory by Tran Anh Nhi, Guardian Pharmacist
An occupational hazard is something unpleasant that one may experience as a result of doing his job. Here are common occupational health hazards faced by office workers and ways to deal with them.
1. Musculoskeletal disorders
Back pain, stiff neck and tense shoulders are among the most popular complaints of white collar workers. These problems can result from working on computers and sitting for long hours. To prevent these muscle-related injuries, it is most important to maintain a proper posture:
- Rest both feet flat on the floor.
- Adjust the height of the chair so that you can type on your keyboard with your arms straight and parallel to the floor.
- Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
- Support your back with either a small pillow or backrest.
- Position the computer screen or any reading materials at eye level to avoid bending and straining the neck.
Secondly, take small breaks during your work to release muscle tension even if your posture is perfectly correct since sustained positioning of muscle causes tension and fatigue. It is ideal to stand up and walk around for at least five minutes for every hour of sitting and do simple stretches such as placing your hands on your lower back and stretching backwards.
Lastly, you should stay active and engage in physical activities regularly. Repeat the stretching exercises more thoroughly and massage problem areas to relieve the tension build-up. If you experience persistent pain, consult your healthcare professionals, who may prescribe painkillers to temporarily relieve the pain.
2. Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)
CVS is a group of vision-related problems, such as eye strain, blurred vision, dry eyes or headaches, resulting from prolonged use of computers or digital devices. Other factors that cause CVS include poor lighting, poor sitting posture, improper viewing distance, glare from the digital screen, or uncorrected eye conditions.
Below are some tips to prevent CVS:
- Minimise your use of computers or any digital devices.
- Every 20 minutes, shift your focus away from the computer to a distant object for at least 20 seconds.
- Maintain a proper sitting posture (as described above) while keeping the screen one arm’s length away from your eyes.
- Position the screen to avoid glare from artificial light sources or sunlight, or use an anti-glare filter on the screen.
- Blink regularly to stimulate tear production or apply lubricating eye drops to prevent dry eyes.
- Get your eyes checked and correct any abnormality since uncorrected eye conditions can aggravate CVS.
Do seek advice from your pharmacist to find out which lubricating or relieving eye drops are the most suitable for you.
Some stress is undeniably necessary for one to perform and excel. However, excessive stress will take a toll on your health, leading to irritability, difficulty focusing, tiredness or insomnia. Although stress is unavoidable, these tips may help you to manage and alleviate work-related stress:
- Track your sources of stress to pre-plan your response for the next encounter.
- Develop a healthy response to stress, such as exercising, pursuing a hobby or favourite pastime, spending time with your beloved ones, or getting quality sleep.
- Establish boundaries and take time to recharge so that your work-related stress does not interfere with your personal life.
- Learn how to relax through meditation, deep breathing or getting support from your friends and family members.
Seek professional advice if you feel stressed all the time, or to the extent that it markedly affects your quality of life – for example, if you experience negative effects on your personality, mood or sleeping patterns.