Is Your Office Killing You?
The typical office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes at their desk. That’s part of the 47 hours per week the average full-time adult employee is at work, according to CNN Money. When you’re doing anything that much, the chances are that some part of it is affecting your health in a negative way.
Since you’re the one who pays the highest price for what’s happening to your body, it makes sense to be aware of them and take corrective action where and when possible. From those office chairs you sit in nearly six hours a day to the bad boss who’s beating you up emotionally, here’s a look at the common work-related ways your office is killing you.
All About Sitting
All that time at your desk adds up. Over the course of a year, it’s over 1,300 hours for the average adult who works full time. Here’s how all that sitting can affect you, and how to counteract it.
- Excessive time spent sitting has been proven in many studies to contribute to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you must stay at your desk for long periods of time, you should shift positions every ten minutes, and get up and move about twice each hour. The challenge is that you’re normally so engaged in your work you easily forget how quickly the time passes. Solution: put a silent timer on your desk to remind you.
- Furniture that leads to poor posture can lead to back problems, carpal tunnel, bursitis, and arthritis, to name a few. While currently available chairs, desks, and computer-related devices can be a great help, most offices don’t keep up with the technology of much beyond the electronics. Solution: Pay attention to your posture and get in the habit of maintaining health-supporting posture. Then, do some homework and find items that are easier on your body. Health.com is a great place to start.
Modern offices are notorious for being well-sealed from the elements outside. While that’s great for regulating temperature, it also results in stale air that’s been recirculated many times. But how bad can that be? Air pollution is the cause of between 5 and 7 million premature deaths. And a whopping 4 million of those is from indoor air pollution!
While it’s unlikely you’re going to get the owner of the building to improve the HVAC systems, there are things you can do to counteract the negative effects. That fifteen minute break you get every two hours? Talk to your boss about breaking it into 7 to 8 minute breaks per hour and get outside, if possible. Or, when the fifteen minute break comes up, head for the doors for a bit longer walk. That addresses not just the air quality (hopefully it’s better outside!), but also the desk-sitting hazards mentioned above.
And of course, if your office doesn’t have a no-smoking policy, push to get one in place. Second-hand smoke is a huge part of that poor quality indoor air that’s killing you, and protecting your health should be as important to your boss as it is to you.
Eating (and Snacking) Habits
Just the fact that you’re stuck at a desk for long hours means that food is going to be a part of that time. While it’s possible to make eating at work an opportunity to treat our bodies well, few of us do.
- Grazing. Call it snacking, munching, or grazing, it’s still the same thing. You’re regularly putting food into your mouth and often not even consciously doing so. That’s going to add to the day’s calories, even if it’s healthy foods like fruits, nuts, or veggies. Even worse if you’re indulging in sweet or salty processed snacks. If you simply must have something at your desk, don’t make it a whole package of anything. Make a small portion – – that’s not a baggie stuffed full – – that would be a reasonable single serving. Then eat consciously and make it last the day.
- Eating Out. Everyone knows that virtually every food establishment out there tends to serve portions that are too large, and contain a crazy amount of calories. For example, the ever popular Big Mac meal comes in around 1500 calories, with a huge dose of fat and sodium. Dine-in restaurants aren’t much better. If you find yourself too hurried in the morning to pack a truly nutritious lunch, do it the night before. Better yet, spend an hour once a week and prepare items for the whole week.
- Not Eating at All. Okay, you claim you’re just too busy for lunch today. I get it. We all have those days. If you had that nutritious lunch you’d prepared at home, you could more easily eat it while you work (though eating at your desk should be limited). But in general not eating is a poor solution to time management challenges. Skipping lunch reduces productivity and energy levels, including your ability to think clearly. Feed your body, and you feed your mind.
That Bad Boss
The notion of a toxic work environment or “only” a bad boss isn’t just an urban myth. If you’ve worked with either, or are now, you know the reality of it. It affects your stress levels, your job performance, and ultimately your career. You deserve to have a boss who exhibits good leadership and personal skills.
- Speak Up. Speak up and let your boss know how you feel. Ask them to listen to you and your ideas. Remind them that you are here to help the company and want to contribute to the overall goals of the team and business. If you don’t speak up, he or she may have no idea you’ve been feeling neglected and irritated at the situation. Have a conversation and see if you two are willing to get on the same page. If you must, talk with a boss higher up or human resources to get your voice heard.
- Know Your Rights. You have rights as an employee, and it’s important you stand up for those privileges. For example, if you’re in construction, there are safety measures your boss must take to protect you. New York construction stairway accidents occur far too often. Bosses need to start being held accountable for the safety of their employees, and this also goes for how you’re treated in the workplace. Demand respect and hopefully it’ll be reciprocated. If it’s not, then you may need to report it.
- Don’t Panic. Don’t panic and get all flustered. Do what you can and then start brainstorming other options. Remain calm so you can do your work and not let your boss get under your skin. Talk to a co-worker and see if they feel the same way. Brainstorm ideas for trying to make it a better work environment while you’re there.
- Start Looking for A New Job. If nothing else, start searching for a new job. Sometimes bad bosses can’t be fixed. You may do everything in your power and yet he or she still acts like a child. If you can’t work with your boss, then it’s probably time to start looking for new positions within the company or outside at a new firm. Start the search early enough where your relationship with your boss doesn’t get too bad before you leave.