While many office employees spend the majority of their days at work, relatively few think about the possible health risks they could be exposed to while they go about their tasks. Although they may not always be obvious, the workplace is full of concealed hazards that can have a detrimental impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. To make sure you and your staff are as safe and healthy as possible, it’s a good idea to try and identify these threats and take steps to avoid them. Here are five hidden office health risks – and suggestions on how you can combat them.
- Uncomfortable chairs
The quality of office furniture is something that is often overlooked by employers and managers – and this can prove to be a costly mistake. After all, when you consider that your personnel could be spending up to eight hours a day sitting down, having comfortable chairs is a must if you want them to work to their best ability. Uncomfortable and poorly designed chairs can cause all sorts of health problems, from backache, to leg pain, to poor circulation. They can also result in frustration, irritability and increased stress levels, all of which can result in higher staff illness rates.
If you want to keep your workers happy and healthy, it’s important to invest in ergonomic seating solutions that are designed to prevent aches and pains and promote correct posture. Ideally, office chairs should be adjustable by height and tilt so they can be modified to suit the individual proportions of the user. They should also provide sufficient lumbar support, have generously sized seats and optional armrests. Not only can having the right furniture help to boost your staff members’ health, it can also improve concentration and productivity levels, which is good news for your bottom line.
- Poorly set up workstations
Another common hazard that people fail to spot is poorly set up workstations. Monitors that are too high or too low, keyboards that are positioned at the wrong angle and screen glare are all problems that can take their toll on employees’ health. Over time, these issues can result in eyestrain, muscle tension, headaches and repetitive strain injury in the hands, wrists, shoulders and neck.
To prevent these ailments, there are a few quick checks you can perform to make sure workspaces are properly laid out. Computer monitors should be at eye level and about an arm’s length away, while keyboards need to be positioned directly in front of you with your wrists resting on the table as you type. Frequently used equipment and supplies should be within easy reach, and for workers who use the phone a lot, you may also want to consider providing headsets to prevent shoulder and neck pain. The computer screen should also be free from glare caused by interior and exterior light.
Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of letting our workspaces get messy from time to time. However, if you’re not careful and you let the clutter build up, it can present serious trip hazards. When workers have to navigate their way around stacks of folders, paperwork, boxes and other office supplies, it increases the chance of slips and trips happening, especially when objects are left lying around near staircases or in walkways.
To reduce the chance of accidents and injuries, take care to keep all corridors and stairs free from clutter and make sure there is a clear pathway for traffic to flow through the office. If your workplace has limited square footage, invest in handy space-saving storage solutions, like under desk-pedestals, slimline filing cabinets and full-height shelving systems. Give everything a proper home, and at the end of every day, make sure workers do a quick tidy up and return all tools and equipment to their proper places.
- Unsuitable lighting
Chances are, you’ve probably not given much thought to the lighting in your office. However, the truth is that light can affect your staff members’ mood and wellbeing, which can have a knock on effect on how well they work. Environments that are too bright, or too dim, can cause physical problems like eyestrain, fatigue and headaches. It is also known that unstable lighting can lead to higher levels of irritability and stress – which can in turn hinder performance and productivity.
When it comes to office lighting, there is no single rule as to what solutions are best. However, you should try to utilise as much natural light as possible and place as many desks as you can near or in view of a window. If this is not possible, try to use bulbs that replicate natural light. You should also have a balance of overhead lighting and task lights for workspaces.
- Poor hygiene
Every workplace has episodes of colds and stomach bugs. Sometimes, this can’t be helped, especially if you work in an open plan environment and have air conditioning units that can circulate germs around the room. However, one of the main factors that causes illnesses at work is poor hygiene. Falling to wash your hands, not cleaning cups and kitchen utensils properly and leaving worksurfaces dirty for long periods of time can cause bacteria to quickly spread around the office.
To stave off sickness and keep your office germ-free, staff should be encouraged to use hand sanitiser and to wash cups and cutlery thoroughly after they have been used. It’s also a good idea to have disinfectant wipes on hand so employees can clean their desks, keyboards, phones and other equipment on a regular basis. In addition, try to discourage people from eating lunch at their desks to prevent crumbs from getting into keyboards and causing bacteria to grow. Make sure that any leftovers are cleared away promptly too.
These are just some examples of the health hazards you may find lurking within your office, but they should give you an idea of the types of things to look out for. By taking measures to increase workplace safety and improve your employees’ health, you should find that you reduce absenteeism, bolster morale and have a far happier, more productive workforce.