Is your workplace Making you ill?

Let’s face it, going to work is a part of life, but what we don’t expect is our workplace becoming so toxic that it actually affects our health and sanity. health investigates ways that your workplace may be making you sick.

workplace and illness

Lisa Ziegler from Sharjah has been working as an administrative assistant in a school for the past one year. She says, “I do enjoy being around children but my work environment gives me terrible migraine headaches. I have to force myself to go into work as there are some co-workers who constantly gossip about everyone all the time. The environment makes me tense and anxious. How do I get out of this?” she asks.


Be it a nasty co-worker, a mean boss or an uncomfortable office environment, Priya Sridharan, Organizational Development Specialist says some of the things that can lead to emotional problems in the workplace include an overwhelming workload and unrealistic expectations of the organization. An unrealistic expectation of the individual of himself and a perfectionist attitude that does not allow him/her to be flexible is another big one. “Another is not paying attention to the need for taking short breaks within the work day to re-energize the mind and the body, for example always having lunch at their desk,” she says and also not being able to say “no” to any extra work and physical discomfort, such as a high AC, uncomfortable chair, desk, or other ergonomics can lead to pains and stress


One sign of job-related stress, points out Sridharan, is constant anxiety and tension leading to panic attacks or prolonged anxiety attacks. “Another is physical ailments such as headaches, gastric problems, skin eruptions, and hair loss,” she says as well as lack of motivation, dreading the work day, and poor performance, and constantly making mistakes also go hand in hand. “Also an inability to rest, sleep, and withdrawal from the peer group and other office relationships are also signs of work related anxiety,” she says. “A build-up of these negative emotions is extremely unsafe.”

Office Chair

In our offices, most of us spend most of the day sitting, hunched over the laptop as we work the day away. And Dr. Pamela Leader, Doctor of Chiropractic and Managing Director of Chiropractic Dubai at Emirates European Medical Centre points out that almost every patient who comes into her clinic is in the office all day working at a desk and computer workstation. “Most people using a poorly designed office chair or working at an unsuitable workstation tend to start getting neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain and sometimes headaches,” she says and they usually think it’s nothing serious so they end up taking pain killers to numb the pain, but this doesn’t correct the cause of the problem so the pain tends to return and can become chronic. “Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is the main problem associated with a poorly designed office chair and is caused by a repeated action or posture, leading to injury through strain,” she says. “Also sitting in awkward postures, working at poorly designed workstations, and repeatedly performing manual actions such as typing can all lead to repetitive strain injury.” The pain and disability incurred by these injuries builds up gradually and can sometimes even be permanent.

Excessive Sitting

A large part of the population, tells Dr. Leader, is now spending much time sitting and not enough time moving their body. “Prolonged sitting strains muscles and spinal joints in the lower back, the upper back and the neck,” she says and if ignored, this can lead to chronic lower back pain involving the sacro-iliac joints, the lumbar spine and depending on the positions you adopt, the dorsal and cervical spine. Muscle strain leads to spasm and imbalance, which in turn can block the pelvic and spinal joints causing pelvic dysfunction or facet syndrome. Left untreated, it can also result in degenerative disc disease, disc herniation and facet joint arthritis

The Correct Way to Sit

We spend half of our lives at work, so Dr. Leader stresses it is important that the chair you spend half of your life using is ergonomically correct. “The user should always sit up with their straight back resting on their chair, lower back supported well and with the neck and head aligned with the spine,” she says. “The chair should be strong, easily adjustable with a padded seat to contour support with a sturdy five-legged base with five casters that roll easily with the seat pan length sufficient enough to support the thighs, with two inches distance between the edge of the seat pan and the back of the knees.” The Seat pan should tilt to a minimum adjustable range of about five degrees forward and backward and the backrest should provide an adjustable lumbar support that matches the curve of the lower back. “The backrest should recline at least 15 degrees and should lock into place for firm support and the headrest of the chair should not poke the head of the employee forward,” she says, and armrests should be padded and soft and large enough to support the forearm without interfering with the work surface

Tips to Being Happier In The Office:

Focus on prevention, ask your employer about getting your desk area assessed for ergonomics. Don’t feel shy about asking, this is your health and should be taken seriously.

Telephone, laptop stands, keyboard, mouse and mouse pad can be checked for optimum position and ergonomic suitability. Make sure your screen is directly in front of you if possible.

Get up from your desk and take regular breaks. A two minute walk around the office with regular stretches at least every

Stretching exercises at work are great, a few minutes of stretching in your chair can help loosen those tight muscles and may decrease the chances of getting pain or RSI from workplace stress

Air conditioning should not hit you directly, it may cause headaches and other pain syndromes and can also spread colds. Have the vents redirected or ask for your desk to be positioned away from air conditioning units, and take a cardigan or jacket into the office to keep yourself warm

Eat healthy snacks at three to four hour intervals and try to get away from your desk to eat lunch.

If you are suffering from any kind of pain then you should see a chiropractor to help diagnose and treat the cause, not the symptoms of an ailment.

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