Desk Workers: 5 Ways to Prevent Your Office Job from Sabotaging Your Health

We don’t tend to think of office jobs as high risk. We don’t have to worry about heavy lifting, falling objects, dangerous chemicals or any other risks that may come with alternative professions.

However, with a desk job, our health is at a higher risk than most of us realize. There are hidden dangers at our desk at all times. They aren’t going to cause sudden injury, but they may well cause us to develop chronic, painful and long-term health conditions.

Here are 5 hidden hazards you need to worry about (and what you can do to minimize the risks):

1. The Dangers of Rarely Moving

Quite simply, if you are sitting at a desk all day, you are not going to be burning many calories.

The sedentary nature of your job means that it’s very easy to consume more calories from your food and drink than your body needs. These leftover calories are then stored as fat. This all means you are at a high risk of unhealthy weight gain and obesity.

Being overweight carries many risks for your health, particularly the increased risk of developing diabetes and cancer.

If you have a desk job, you are going to need to work hard to prevent weight gain or to lose weight if you are already overweight.  You need to find opportunities to compensate by being more active out of office hours. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take advantage of your lunch break to use the company gym, to run, swim or walk.
  • Ditch the car for your commute, and walk or cycle all or part of it.
  • Take an early morning fitness class on your way to the office.
  • Find ways to make your evenings and weekends more active by taking up a new sport or fitness activity.
  • Read up on tips for a healthy diet and avoid consuming too many calories.

2. The Dangers of Sitting in One Position

When you sit at a desk, you hold your body in one position for hours at a time. This is more dangerous than you probably ever imagined.

Around half of all office workers are thought to suffer from some kind of musculoskeletal problems, mostly caused by prolonged sitting. Painful symptoms manifest themselves in the neck, shoulders and back. These symptoms can be hard to treat. Often, pain is long-term so prevention is really important.

Here’s how to prevent or overcome health problems from prolonged sitting:

  • Get up and move as often as you can, and don’t sit unless totally necessary. Suggest discussions with colleagues take place while standing or walking, for example.
  • Explore alternative desk options such as standing desks and active workstations.
  • Don’t eat lunch at your desk; take the opportunity to move.
  • Take a regular massage with a therapist trained in remedial and sports massage to target problem areas in your back, neck or shoulders.

3. The Dangers of Typing

A job that involves a lot of typing can put you at risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

These are caused by making the body to do the same type of movement over and over.  These motions eventually strain the muscles and tendons causing tiny tears, chafing and abrasion. These injuries then cause the areas to be inflamed, painful or hypersensitive.

RSI is hard to treat because it is very difficult for the injured muscles and tendons to be given the time to rest and heal. Seek help from a physiotherapist if you believe you are affected.

To prevent or minimize RSI:

  • Sit in a supportive chair and pay attention to your posture. Avoid hunching and leaning over your keyboard. Keep feet flat on the floor as much as possible.
  • Avoid using a laptop as your everyday computer. Use a separate keyboard and keep your screen at eye-level.
  • Seek professional help with learning a good typing technique that will minimize strain on your fingers, hands, wrists and elbows.
  • Ditch unnecessary typing. Hand-write notes and memos, and avoid emailing people you can chat with directly.

4. The Dangers of a Filthy Keyboard

Some surveys have suggested that keyboards are often significantly dirtier than a toilet seat!  All sorts of harmful bacteria and germs can proliferate in grubby office equipment.

To avoid getting sick, the solutions are simple:

  • Ensure your keyboard is cleaned regularly. Give it an extra clean yourself if you are worried that it’s not being cleaned adequately or often enough by the office cleaning team.
  • Always wash your hands between using office and equipment and eating.
  • Keep a hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes handy in your desk drawer for quick, emergency cleanups.

5. The Dangers of Artificial Lighting

Many offices rely on artificial lighting. A lack of natural sunlight in your day can cause real problems for your health.

Too much artificial light and not enough sunlight can cause your body clock to begin to malfunction. This is then responsible for causing sleep problems and issues with mood levels, which, in turn, cause further physical health problems.

Smart-phones, computer screens, and televisions add to the problem. These bright screens can play even greater havoc with your circadian rhythm (your sleep/wake cycle).

  • Set your body clock by spending as much time in sunlight before work as you can.
  • Take a walk during lunch. This is particularly useful if shorter winter daylight hours are a problem for you.
  • Minimize screen time in the evenings, particularly in the hour or two before you want to sleep.

Finally, don’t panic!

A few simple changes to your working routine and habits can prevent troublesome health problems from bothering you in the future.


Marc Innes is the Owner and Principal of the School of Natural Therapies, a training school for Massage & Holistic Therapies located in London. Marc began his career in the NHS, working in a number of managerial and training roles within the Ambulance Service in London. He spent much of that time educating and coaching medical staff. Over time, he developed an interest in all things complementary to Allopathic Medicine, in particular, Reiki Healing and EFT, which culminated in running a successful teaching and ‘energy healing’ practice. Marc is passionate about the massage and complementary therapy industry.


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