Five health hazards of your office job

Do you think because you're not a professional skydiver that you're not risking your health every day just by going to work? Think again.

Think you're safe from physical issues caused by your job just because you're not a logger or a rickshaw driver? Well, think again.

According a study published by economic and social policy researchers at the Urban Institute, the number of physically demanding jobs has dropped to less than 10%, leaving more Americans susceptible to desk-job-related health problems.

As a tech pro, you may escape the risk of bone-crunching injury, but there are still plenty of maladies that could befall you right at your desk. They are:

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Yow know the people in your office with those ridiculous contraptions velcroed to their forearms and hands? They're not professional bowlers. They have what is perhaps the most common office malady around—carpal tunnel syndrome. This is marked by pain, soreness, tingling, numbness, or itching that's caused when a nerve that runs through the forearm is compressed by swollen ligaments and bones in the wrist. It's brought on by too much typing.

You can help prevent the problem by making sure your wrists never actually rest on the wrist pad by your keyboard. They should hover above it.

2. Eyestrain

Signs of eyestrain can include blurry vision, of course, but also watery or dry eyes, headache, or sore neck. If you spend most of your time at a computer, Microsoft suggests you increase your font size so you don't have to squint. Also, it helps to look away from your computer frequently to allow your eyes to adjust to different distances. Take care of your eyes; you'll need them, especially if you're a professional bowler.

3. Back pain

Even if you have great posture or have the latest ergonomic setup, sitting for hours at a time can play havoc on your back muscles. Ignoring the curious glances of your coworkers, get up from your desk occasionally to stretch or walk.

4. Bacteria

A 2002 University of Arizona study found the typical worker's desk has hundreds of times more bacteria per square inch than an office toilet seat. If just reading that doesn't make you sick, just think of all the cold and flu germs lurking around your desk and on your phone. Keep your hands, surface areas, and keyboard clean with disinfectant to cut down the risks.

5. Stress

When you have no vigorous physical outlet for stress, it tends to internalize, which can lead to a host of health problems like ulcers, heart disease, and depression. (For more stress-related issues, please see my medical chart.)

Unfortunately, preventing stress is not always within your hands. How you deal with it is. Finding energy outlets like running, video gaming, and professional bowling can help.

For more on IT health risks and what you can do about them, see 10 IT health risks — and how to combat them.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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