This article appeared in the February 2016 issue of Venture Cover magazine.
“This job is killing me.”
During a tough day at work you might just find yourself muttering this at your desk… Although this statement is, at its core, a grossly dramatic expression of frustration or exhaustion, studies show that it could actually be true.
A startling amount of research suggests that much of the activity the average person engages in at the work place can be considered detrimental to their health. However, there are many ways to ward off the workplace reaper. Fear not! Here are five ways your job might be trying to kill you, and how you can stop it.
- Your chair is making you fat. When you factor in time spent on the couch at home, people with desk jobs are on their butts about nine hours a day. As you can imagine, that’s not great for your health. In fact, researchers have found that people with “sitting jobs” have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease and an increased chance of diabetes.
What you can do: Get up! Make a point of leaving your desk at least once an hour. Be sure to set yourself a timer so you don’t miss your standing break because you are engrossed in your coworkers’ funny forwarded emails. Better yet, inquire about the possibility of obtaining a standing desk in your office! Your heart, and your waistline, will benefit.
- Your keyboard is making you sick. In a recent study, British microbiologists found that some office keyboards contain more germs than an average toilet seat. As with other surfaces, keyboards can become host to E Coli, staph, and other germs that can make you sick.
What you can do: Wash your hands! Frequent hand washing is always your safest bet against catching something from a surface. Additionally, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to wash that keyboard. Remind yourself to sterilize your workstation about once a month, not just when you spill coffee on it…
- Your shoes are wrecking your back. Beauty is pain. Right? Women pay a steep price for fashion, especially when that involves wedging our feet into small shoes or, worse, high heels. Over extended periods, uncomfortable shoes can cause spinal injuries, muscle spasms, and even chronic headaches. One study has shown that prolonged wearing of high heels can even contribute to joint degeneration and knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, wearing uncomfortable shoes can make you want to sit more (helping your chair continue to make you fat).
What you can do: Invest in some sensible shoes! It may not be the fashion-forward thing to do, but when it comes to choosing between looking like Forrest Gump at work or contracting osteoarthritis, you can call me Forrest every time.
- The printer is suffocating you. In a recent study published in the scholarly journal, Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found that 30% of printers tested emitted high levels of toner particles, which are potentially as hazardous as cigarette smoke. The exact health effects aren’t yet known, but with long-term exposure, these types of air pollutants can be linked to allergies and respiratory illnesses.
What you can do: Get outside! Presumably the windows of your office don’t open (perhaps to keep you from jumping out), so it is your responsibility to make a solid effort to get some fresh air. Get up. Go outside. And not for a cigarette!
- Your monitor is wrecking your eyes. A 2011 study by the College of Optometry in New York revealed the dangers of “Computer Vision Syndrom,” or as it is more commonly referred to, CVS. An affliction facing as much as 90% of computer users, CVS symptoms may include eyestrain, headaches, ocular discomfort, dry eye, diplopia and even blurred vision.
What you can do: Blink! Make a point to occasionally move your eyes away from the screen! This change in focus will cause you to blink and make your eyes re-adjust; a necessary process that aids in maintaining good eye health. Look out the window, at your coworker, even take a glance at the terrible art from your nephew that you tacked to your wall in an effort to be polite.
The modern work force is cutthroat enough without having to worry about your office slowly killing you. Stay vigilant! Or, if all else fails, you could always quit your day job and do something a bit safer, like driving a race car.