Are you at work? Take a moment to look around and notice all the office equipment and furniture. It all looks pretty innocuous right? The photocopier, your desk, everyone’s monitors, nothing here can hurt you, can it?
Yeah, about that. It turns out a lot of the objects we populate our offices with are actually bad for your health.
These are just a few of them.
Your photocopier could be poisoning the air around you
You might think that the only way your office photocopier presents a threat is if you get a little too exuberant with it at the end-of-year party. But there’s actually a much less visible danger.
To be fair, it’s not the photocopier itself that’s dangerous, but the toner you fill it with.
According to Wikipedia, as a fine powder, toner can remain suspended in the air for some period, and is considered to have health effects comparable to inert dust.
It can be an irritant to people with respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis.
While there have been some improvements when it comes to reducing these health risks, recent studies have shown that the microscopic particles in toner are carcinogenic, similar to asbestos.
Fluorescent lights cause all kinds of problems
Unless you’ve always worked for ultra-hip, design-centred companies, chances are your office life has involved plenty of fluorescent lights. It makes sense too. Fluorescent lights are both cheaper and more efficient than traditional lighting options.
There is, however, a trade-off when it comes to employee health.
Fluorescent lights can disrupt your sleep cycle, cause eye strain, contribute to migraines, and exacerbate the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions that aren’t overly expensive. These include replacing bulbs regularly and using broader spectrum bulbs.
Computer monitors can give your eyes repetitive stress injuries
If your job entails going into an office every day, chances are it also entails staring at a computer monitor for hours at a time.
String enough days like this together and your eyes will start to feel the strain.
According to WebMD, you could eventually end up with something like Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, CVS is caused by repetitive motions (your eyes follow the same path over and over again) and generally gets worse over time.
Fortunately, CVS can be treated, and even prevented, fairly easily. Turn down the glare on your screen, rearrange your desk so that the top of your monitor is at eye level, and remember to give your eyes regular breaks.
Your keyboard (and a whole load of other stuff) is crawling with germs
When it comes to your overall health however, your monitor may be less of an issue than your keyboard.
Numerous studies have found that keyboards harbour disproportionately high concentrations of disease-carrying germs, including E.Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Staphylococcus. The situation is only made worse when more than one person uses the computer (as in call centres).
Your keyboard isn’t the only object harbouring germs either. Door knobs, taps, and printer buttons are other common culprits.
We’re not really sure what to suggest when it comes to remedying this one, apart from carrying hand sanitizer everywhere you go and not thinking too hard about all the gross things you’re touching.
Your chair is helping to send you to an early grave
Many office workers feel so overwhelmed by the demands of their job that they barely leave their desks from the moment they get in to the moment they leave. You’ve probably been there a few times yourself, getting up only to heat up the lunch that you’ll return to your desk to eat.
Thing is, operating like that can have serious long-term implications for your health. Studies have shown strong links between leading a sedentary lifestyle and early death.
You can offset this by getting up regularly during the day, exercising, or investing in a desk that allows you to switch between sitting and standing.
A bigger solution
While some of the issues we’ve mentioned above will be a problem no matter where you work from, many of them are unique to the office. As a result, companies insisting that their employees come into a central place of work can result in increased sick days and lost productivity. An obvious solution is to allow people to regularly work from home. It might not save them from a sedentary lifestyle, or the perils of their PC monitor, but at least they won’t be touching the same toilet door handle as everyone else.