What Is Your Job Doing To Your Health?
Have You Ever Thought About What Your Job IS Doing To Your Health?
Even if you love your job, you may be unwittingly paying a high price in terms of your health.
For while we all know that slumping over a computer is bad for our backs, there are many other subtle — and unexpected — factors of office life that can have a harmful effect.
A recent British study found that missing out on a promotion is bad for the heart.
Here, are some of the other health risks of office life...
Office lighting can drive you to drink
For much of the year we get up in the dark then spend much of the day inside in the relative gloom — particularly if an office has poor lighting or little natural light.
This reduced exposure to natural daylight upsets the body clock, according to Professor Till Roenneberg, head of the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Munich.
We need sunlight to wake us up and darkness to help us sleep — light changes trigger the production of melatonin, the hormone that prepares the body for sleep.
Using computer screens, iPads and smartphones — which all emit light — exacerbates the problem, say researchers from the University of California Los Angeles Sleep Disorders Centre.
And because we sit with or hold these devices so close to our faces, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room.
As a result we not only feel tired, but our metabolism suffers, too.
And if your internal body clock is not in synch with real time, it increases the risk of being addicted to alcohol to calm down at night or cigarettes as a stimulant to stay alert during the day.
Eating at your desk causes tummy bugs
The crumbs that accumulate on your desk and in your keyboard provide a perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive, says Dr Ron Cutler, a micro- biologist at Queen Mary University of London.
The temperature in offices is typically around 20C, the point at which staphylococcus can breed, causing diarrhoea and vomiting — which is why leaving your sandwich on your desk all morning is also a risk.
‘Meat or chicken in temperatures of more than 4c will start to see salmonella growing after two or three hours,’ says Dr Peter Wilson, a microbiologist at University College London Hospitals.
Your risk of catching your colleagues’ bugs are also higher in an open-plan office, says Dr Cutler.
‘If you are coughing and spluttering, do everyone a favour and go home.
'The particle matter in a sneeze can travel more than three metres in any direction.’
Missed promotion puts the heart at risk
Getting passed over for a promotion is linked to heart disease, according to research from University College London.
Scientists tracked the employment histories and health outcomes of 4,700 civil servants in London.
Those in departments with high rates of promotion were approximately 20 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those who weren’t.
'It’s largely down to a feeling of being in control (or not), says Daryl O’Connor, professor of health psychology at the University of Leeds.
‘If you feel you’ve put in a lot of effort and it has not been rewarded, this increases stress and, in turn, the risk of heart disease.’
Smartphones can affect your memory
Research last month revealed the average employee effectively works a 12-hour day due to checking emails before and after work, for instance on their smartphone.
But experts warn that mentally ‘clocking in’ before leaving the house and struggling to switch off at home could be detrimental.
Constantly trying to force information into the brain overloads it, says Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep therapist at Capio Nightingale Hospital.
‘Part of the brain — the short-term storehouse — doesn’t like to be busy all the time. It likes to have a chance to switch off, consolidate and file away things that we might need later on.
‘If we try to force it to work all the time it shuts down anyway.
'As a result, we become stressed and our memory isn’t as good.’