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Office Workers' Health Problems: 8 Common Ailments & Their Remedies

8 min read
Published on 15 June, 2020

Sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer screen has become the new normal for corporate employees. Apart from sitting at a desk for long hours to work, the regular office worker has to deal with a lot of stress. The stress may be due to deadlines, finances, office conflicts, etc.

Spending most of the time buried at work dealing with all such stressors is bad for health. Other factors that negatively affect the office workers’ health involve sitting in a poor posture.

Workplace health problems act as a major setback in the running of a company. These problems cripple a workforce with its motivation and willpower to deliver the best. For this reason, employers must pay close attention to office workers’ health problems.

A study by the International Labor Organization shows that workplace accidents and illnesses claim 2 million lives annually. The report also states that office illnesses and accidents cost the global economy $1.25 trillion annually.

While it is nearly impossible to eliminate the human body’s health risks, proper measures can reduce them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to identify frequent health problems in the workplace. After this is determined, the task of remedial steps to overcome this is undertaken.

As of today, let us help you gain a headstart by listing down eight common office workers’ health problems and their remedies.

8 Common Office Workers Health Problems and their Remedies

1. Musculoskeletal disorders

Employee experiencing neck pain after working in a poor posture
The term "musculoskeletal disorders" refers to injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. Many may wonder how working at a desk can cause musculoskeletal disorders.

This disorder occurs when an individual is exposed to repetitive motions or sitting in poor posture for prolonged periods. Repetitive motions involve bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, and twisting.

Musculoskeletal disorders don't involve injuries due to slips, trips, falls, or other such incidents.

Statistics suggest that 1.71 billion people suffer from musculoskeletal conditions worldwide. This disorder reduces an individual’s mobility and agility. Eventually, such workers are bound to retire early or have decreased work performance.

Office workers mostly suffer musculoskeletal disorders like stiff muscles, joint pain and stiffness, and swelling in the affected area. It is worth noting that such issues may develop in the upper or lower body.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSDs are among the most commonly occurring workplace injuries. These are responsible for almost 30 percent of all workers’ compensation costs.

Some of the commonly seen musculoskeletal disorders include:

  • Sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Here are some effective home remedies that may help with MSD:

  • Hot and cold therapy
  • Body conditioning and strength exercises
  • OTC medications

Based on the severity of the condition, other remedies that health experts suggest include physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and steroid injections.

LEmployees should take short regular breaks while working, focus, and maintain a good posture. They must practice hand stretches and chair yoga poses in their workspace.

2. Viruses/Bacteria

Employee suffering from viral infection taking hot drink
Public places and transport are the breeding ground of uncountable viruses and bacteria. But that is not all. Even the usual workstations are full of these microorganisms. Other than this, the phones, laptops, and mice used for personal or work purposes are also full of germs waiting to infect the next host.

Moreover, some employees habitually munch or eat at their desks. While some employees clear their space after eating, they may accidentally miss a spot or two. This is where the problem lies.

Workplaces that lack proper food hygiene practices also pose a threat to employees, leading to foodborne diseases. CDC estimates that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States.

Here is what employees and employers can do in this case:

Workplaces should be equipped with surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers. Employees should disinfect their workstations and devices regularly.

Additionally, they should sanitize their hands while working and after using the washroom. Surface cleaners should be available for employees to keep their desks clean.

Another study reports common illnesses such as colds, influenza, and gastroenteritis significantly impact healthcare costs, absenteeism, and productivity among workers. Adult influenza infections alone result in approximately $87 billion per year in healthcare costs, projected lost earnings and loss of life.

3. Headaches

Employee unable to work due to headache
Headache at work is inevitable. Why? It may be due to recurring work stress, undesirable office temperature, too much screen time, too much caffeine intake, poor sitting posture, etc. Undoubtedly, stress plays the biggest role in causing headaches among employees.

According to Harvard Business Review, nearly 47 million Americans and over a billion people worldwide suffer from migraines, peaking in the most productive professional years (25-55 years old).

Sitting in a poor posture and even improper lighting can trigger tension headaches while working.

How to deal with or prevent mild headaches at work?

  • Staying hydrated throughout the work hours is a must. Studies suggest even mild dehydration can lead to headaches.
  • Practice the 20 20 20 rule for the eye. To do this, employees have to look away 20 feet for a duration of 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of working on their laptops.
  • Gently massaging both sides of the head (temples) is seen to alleviate headaches.

For severe headaches, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional. In such cases, they may prescribe over-the-counter medications.

4. Eye Strain

Employee pausing work due to eye strain
Since today’s work requires working in front of a desktop all day, most workers develop eye strain. Eye strain is commonly associated with dry eyes and a painful sensation. It happens as a result of staring at the computer screen for a long period of time.

How to avoid eye strain?

  • Employees should have proper lighting at the employee desk and adjust the brightness of the computer screen. They must not have the setting to the highest intensity.
  • As mentioned above, every computer worker should practice the 20-20-20 eye exercise for long hours.
  • The use of lubricating eye drops can help avoid and alleviate eye strain. However, one should consult with an eye specialist before using one.

As per Review of Optometric Business, over half (53 percent) of employees spend more time in front of their work computer screens. Among those employees with increased screen time, 85 percent say they experience more digital eyestrain.

Suggested reading: Learn How To Reduce Eye Strain At Work With These 7 Effective Ways

5. Obesity

Obese employee eating junk at work
Another common health issue for employees working in an office is gaining weight. A whole day of sitting in front of a desktop doesn't favor weight loss. Obesity in the workplace occurs because of unhealthy eating issues, lack of exercise, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, etc.

How do we minimize employee obesity issues?

  • Encourage physical exercises around the workplace.
  • Install an office gym.
  • Offer in-office nutritious meals.
  • Start yoga sessions in the workplace.
  • Offer incentives to employees who carry out wellness activities.

6. Mental Health Troubles

Mentally distressed employee unproductive at work
Mental health is as important as physical health. In the current competitive environment with growing workplace stress levels, employees are more vulnerable to mental health issues. It is for this reason that you must take proper care of their mental health issues.

How do we safeguard employees’ mental health?

  • Keep the option to take a mental health day off.
  • Offer professional help when necessary.
  • Start yoga sessions in the workplace.
  • Partner with a corporate wellness company like Vantage Fit that offers customized wellness challenges. Corporate wellness companies aim to uplift employee health, which will eventually help the organization flourish.

Studies in 2019 suggest about 15% of employed adults had some mental disorder. Globally, approximately 12 billion working days are lost at a cost of US$ 1 trillion yearly due to employees battling with depression and anxiety.

7. Cardiac Arrests

Young employee experiencing chest pain due at work
Cardiac arrests are another fatal health problem in the workplace. It can be a result of a heart attack, electrocution, or Asphyxiation (death or unconsciousness due to lack of oxygen in a confined space).

More terrifyingly, your employees without any heart disease history may fall prey to it as well.

To avoid such a mishap, employers must keep an automated external defibrillator (AED) in the office at all times. An AED is a medical accessory to check heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock when necessary to restore the heart rhythm to normal.

Employers can also integrate corporate wellness programs that allow employees to keep track of their heart rate. Vantage Fit is one corporate wellness solution provider that comes packed with numerous features. From heart rate monitoring to nutrition tracking, the app provides the essential features required to maintain employee wellness.

There are about 10,000 cardiac arrests in the United States workplace each year, according to a report from the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

8. Exposure to ELF Electric and Magnetic Fields

Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) may unknowingly affect the human body. Radiating from all kinds of electronic devices like phones, computers, and Bluetooth devices, extremely low-frequency EMF is considered dangerous to human health.

Although the chances of ELF Electric and Magnetic Fields inducing health troubles are highly unlikely, its repercussions cannot be ignored. So, it’s important that employers take the basic precautionary measures to safeguard their employees’ health.

The tricky part about safeguarding employees is that it’s almost impossible to make any place ELF- and EMF-free. Whatsoever, here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage employees to spend time away from electronics whenever possible.
  • Carry out periodic assessments in the workplace to monitor the radiation levels.

These are 8 of the common office workers’ health problems that you must look for. As employers, you must realize the depth of their impact on your employee’s work-life and act accordingly.

Bottom Line

Uplifting employee health should be a priority for employers to grow their business exponentially. Also, attracting and retaining employees requires more than just offering a handsome salary.

Nowadays, workplaces that promote employee wellness and offer adequate financial compensation are most likely to retain their employees.

For starters, as an employer, you can ensure your employees’ health is well and good. Hope our list of office workers’ health problems comes in handy for you to create an ideal workplace.

To stay ahead in the game, you can also use corporate wellness apps to maximize your employee health. Vantage Fit is one such app that is a one stop solution for employee wellness. With an activity and calorie tracker, games, and redeemable rewards, it’s designed to upgrade employee wellness and create a healthier workplace.

To better understand its applicability, request a free demo today!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the health risks of working in an office?

Some of the most common health risks of working in an office involve-

  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • viral or bacterial infections
  • heart diseases
  • poor mental health issues

2. What disorder problem do office workers commonly suffer from?

Almost every office worker commonly suffers from back pain troubles. This usually happens as employees sit in improper postures while working for longer periods.

3. What are the 5 types of occupational disease?

5 types of occupational diseases frequently affecting employees are-

  • Musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Heart disease
  • Skin disorders
  • Poor mental health
  • Dry eyes

This article is written by Jyoti Prakash Barman. He is an in-house Content Marketer at Vantage Fit with interests in music and automobiles. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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