08:48 20 August 2009
Research has consistently proven that offices are breeding grounds for illness and disease. Your day to day job can be a real health hazard.
Keyboards are a particular danger, with the average office worker touching their keyboard more than 40,000 times a day, making them ideal hotspot for bacteria.
The risks are further increased by eating at desks and poor hygiene in the workplace.
And that's not the only danger. Make sure your office doesn't sabotage your health by following our office survival tips.
Avoid infections from your desk:
Research by the microbiology department at Arizona University found that the average office desk is home to 20,961 germs per square inch, 400 times more than the average office toilet!
Toilets are cleaned regularly. Desks are not. Infection often comes from keyboards or phones. Food and debris collects inside keyboards, which can spread stomach bugs.
To avoid the unpleasantness, clean your desk regularly with alcohol-based detergent wipes and clean your PC and phone with lint-free antistatic wipes. Also, shake the debris from your keyboard weekly. And avoid eating at your desk if possible.
Protect your eyes:
If you work regularly with a computer monitor, your employer is legally obliged to pay for regular eye tests. However, research has shown less than half bother to claim it.
Adrian Knowles of the Eye Care Trust says: "By failing to get tested, someone could have early signs of a serious eye problem without knowing it." He advises an eye test at least every two years.
If you work with a computer screen, look away every 20 minutes and focus on an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds before returning to work.
Air conditioning can cause dry eyes, which can cause long-term damage. Blinking covers the eyes with a protective, moist layer, so make sure you blink often to keep your eyes from drying out.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) and back pain:
RSI is often associated with misuse of computers. It can start as a tingling, but develop into pain. Many people are at risk, with no formal training given on how to sit at a PC.
Sit with your back straight, your eyes should be in line with your monitor and your feet on the ground. Your keyboard should also be at elbow height. Your chair is there for support, not to perch off. Also don't consider it your home while at work - at least get out for lunch.
Sick building syndrome (SBS):
An inability to concentrate or stay awake at work could be a sign of SBS. Four out of 10 UK office workers are estimated to suffer from this.
Its caused by poor air circulation and chemicals and radiation released by computers, photocopiers, printers and office electronics.
Employers should ensure air conditioning works efficiently and is cleaned regularly. Photocopiers and printers should be at least five feet from desks. Furniture should also be kept clean.
Pressure can be healthy, stress, however, is not. Stressed people drink more caffeine and alcohol, take more days off and are more likely to suffer from heart disease, skin and digestive disorders.
Stress can be eased by taking several breaks every day, even just walking across the office to get a drink. You should always try to get out of the office at lunchtime, even if it's just for a short walk.
Be sure not to burn the midnight oil too frequently as well. Learning how to separate your work and private life is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If your boss is adamant you must take more overtime, stand by your rights. They are, after all, there to protect you.
Those working under a stressful boss are far more likely to fall ill, increasing the risk of heart attacks and death. Some thrive under tight deadlines, others are plagued with anxiety and heart disease is a direct result. If you think your boss is pushing you too hard, be sure to say it. Litigation may only lead to more stress and should be a last resort; the best way to solve these problems is by addressing them.
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