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Health Hazards In The Workplace: Part 1

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Being mindful of our health is the trend these days, but are we paying close enough attention to certain hazards in the office that can derail our goals at staying physically and mentally content?

Let’s be honest here, we have enough on our minds to worry about let alone fretting over the dangers of a creaky office floor or parking lot pothole. However, there are certain hazards in the office that can affect us if we’re not mindful of them. According to the latest news, there are 12 surprising health dangers in the office. Their list is summarized below:

    1. Clumsiness
    2. Stressful open floor plans
    3. Non-breathable green spaces
    4. Boy “cooties”
    5. Communal coffee pots
    6. Yoga ball chairs
    7. Energy-efficient lighting
    8. Allergy-induced air
    9. Computer screen overdose
    10. Colleague bullies
    11. Free treats
    12. Overheated offices

Curiosity grabbing the better of me, I decided to read about these office dangers to see for myself whether they actually have merit. And while a couple of them may be a bit overzealous in their need for worry (see dangers #4 & #7), there are a few that certainly raise the red flag.

In this two part series, I’ll be highlighting a few of these hazards–what they are and how they happen–along with some thoughts from our point of view. In this first installation, I’m tackling two very real problems that are not as easy to control as you may think: office floor plans and computer screens.

Open Floor Plans

According to the aforementioned article, open floor plans are hazardous to our stress levels:

High noise levels and a lack of privacy increase stress on employees and reduce satisfaction with the work environment, according to several studies, including one published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Like so many of our homes today, the open floor plan has become a popular and highly desirable layout. This new way of living is also being translated into the workplace. Work environments aren’t just flooded by endless rows of cubicles anymore. Offices are just as quickly turning to wide open design–where individual work space amounts to not much more than the size of an employee’s desk. And while this airiness may provide a feeling of freedom by giving employees “room to breathe,” it’s also an inescapable environment that leaves very little opportunity for quiet, uninterrupted work time.

open floorplan

© Flickr user Nimbuzz

So, what’s the best office layout for reducing stress and increasing employee satisfaction? According to AccelaWork’s own Robby Slaughter, it’s about encouraging employees to choose what’s right for them:

Neither cube farms, nor a big room, nor even private offices are what’s best for all employees. In fact, everyone working remote isn’t what’s best either. The ideal office environment is one in which individual team members choose the surroundings in which they work.

Empower yourself to take control of the factors that dictate how you operate your day! To help minimize the escalating levels of stress at work, you may also consider the following remedies:

  • Utilize (and stick to) your calendar. Schedule and plan out your day as much as you can; particularly the time in which you’d like to achieve uninterrupted workflow.
  • Find your happy place. If your work space is far from tranquil, seek out an area where you can work and be inspired–perhaps an empty conference room or the shaded picnic table outside the office building.
  • Take a vacation. There’s no explanation necessary here. If you’re stressed out and in need of a break, there’s nothing better than rest and relaxation to revive you.

Computer Screens

Staring at a computer screen for hours on end can lead to dry eye, headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome.

When your head hurts it’s impossible to get anything done. And, if that isn’t bad enough, computer vision syndrome quickly becomes a chronic problem when you fail to remedy it! The problem is–you can’t avoid computer screens (and technology in general) all the time.

computer screen

© Flickr user Travis Isaacs

So what’s the solution? Some suggestions include:

  • Use artificial tears
  • View desktop screens at eye level or below
  • Sit away from air vents
  • Use humidifiers
  • Take breaks

Our suggestion: Get to know your schedule. Chances are, there is a pattern to the way you feel. Give yourself a few days to take notice of this. Write down the times in which you feel great, so-so and terrible. As Slaughter has urged before:

Follow a set schedule, but make it your own. If you like getting up early, do so! If you prefer to sleep a bit later, try that! And if you benefit from a nap during the workday, put it on your calendar.

  • Listen to your own rhythms.
  • When you break your pattern, ditch your expectations.
  • If you’re tired, rest!

No doubt, computer screens are definitely a culprit to headaches and eye strain. But you may also want to consider other factors that may also play a role in this. How’s your nutrition? Are you eating enough? Are you getting all the vital nutrients that you should? Be sure to double check your caffeine and sugar intake throughout the day. And most of all, don’t neglect your need for sleep!

Stay tuned for part two of this series to get hints on how to tackle office bullies and that wretched candy jar!

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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