How Your Workplace And Coworkers Can Affect Your Health

Most people spend a majority of their daily lives in the workplace. While the routine of having goals and attending to a daily schedule can be very beneficial, it is also important to ensure a healthy atmosphere in the office. Here are some of the factors that can affect both physical and mental health of employees:

The habits

Sitting for long periods at work without moving around much? Researchers suggest that such a lifestyle could gradually cause thinning of brain structures

A 2017 British study linked office jobs to an increased risk of obesity and heart disease. "Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol," said lead researcher Dr. William Tigbe of Warwick Medical School, U.K.

In addition, long periods of staring at the computer can lead to eye strain. The pressure of meeting deadlines can also cause stress eating tendencies. Workplaces should take steps to discourage the dangerous combination of reduced physical activity and an unhealthy diet.

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the chair whenever possible, ensuring a healthy lunch and performing exercises at the desk are some of the individual measures employees can consider.

The people

The people you work with play an important role in the quality of your life, particularly with regards to mental health and productivity levels. In general, a lot of people spend more time around their coworkers than their family or friends. 

After examining nearly 700 U.S. workers, a recent study linked exposure to rude coworkers with increased symptoms of insomnia, fatigue, and poor mental health. In a survey published by RAND in 2017, one in five American workers reported being exposed to a hostile or threatening social environment at work.

When harassment, bullying, and rude behavior aren't dealt with, employees can find it difficult to concentrate since they are unable to have peace of mind.

Dr. Nicole Maestas, associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, stressed that those in positions of authority should intervene when employees feel this way. "The top of the organization sets the tone about what this culture values and tolerates as far as behavior and codes of conduct, which filters down to all of the supervisory levels," she said.

The spaces

In recent years, it has been suggested that open space offices may be more harmful than beneficial. An overwhelming majority of office employees find it difficult to concentrate due to distractions and the lack of privacy. Professor Ann Richardson, a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, added that they "increase sickness, absence and emotional cognitive irritation, and decrease mental work ability and productivity and job satisfaction."

Office spaces should be designed to allow certain levels of sunlight and fresh air. While the former is important for the synchronization of circadian rhythms, poor indoor air quality can lead to coughing, irritations, headaches, sleepiness and more.

In terms of hygiene, germs can be found in places such as doorknobs, coffee machines, printers, and elevators. According to other research, hand dryers can deposit bacteria particles onto users while computer keyboards may contain more bacteria than the toilet.