Private Business Intermediaries

Ways to Stay Healthy at Work

28/11/2016 | By Freedom Health Insurance
In the work place, there are many different things that can be an influencer on our health and how we get ill. There are however several steps that can be taken, that can be beneficial to us and our wellbeing throughout the duration of the working week.

Hand Washing

Ensuring that we keep our hands clean is one of the most important steps that can be taken in order to avoid getting ill, and also avoid spreading germs to one another. There are a lot of conditions and illnesses that are spread from person to person simply by not washing your hands with soap and clean water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that keeping hands clean can
  • Reduce stomach illness by 31%
  • Reduce the spread of illnesses such as colds and other respiratory illnesses by 16-21% (1)

There is a strong belief that washing our hands regularly can help prevent infections or illness. Micro-organisms that are harmful to our system are commonly known as germs. They can be spread from, and to, food, from animals or other people and most commonly via our hands. Research has claimed that washing your hands regularly can reduce the risk of developing stomach bugs by up to 47% (1).

Even everyday actions such as changing contact lenses can carry a large amount of risk in regards to spreading germs. According to research published by NCBI, failing to properly disinfect contact lenses can be associated with an increased amount of risk in developing an infection called Acanthamoeba (2). The symptoms of which include red eyes and a pain in the eyes after removing contact lenses, there can also be a sensitivity to light and the feeling that there is something in your eye (3).
This highlights the importance of ensuring that even things that may seem minor and monotonous can have an impact upon your general wellbeing.  

Drink More Water

Water makes up over two-thirds of a healthy human body, which is why it is always important to keep hydrated. Dehydration happens when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. According to NHS Choices, some of the early warning signs for dehydration are:
  • Feeling Thirsty
  • Dry Mouth
  • Light Headedness
  • Tiredness (4)

The British Nutrition Foundation recommends for a good hydration a fluid intake of around 1.6 litres a day for women, and 2 litres a day for men, this is in addition to fluids that are already consumed through food (5).


For people who spend a great majority of their day sitting, lower back support is very important. Whilst it may feel more comfortable to slouch in a chair, the lack of lower back support that this position provides can eventually lead to a strain on the soft tissue and can cause pain (6). It is important to get into the habit of sitting correctly. Initially it may not feel comfortable, however this is because the muscles have not been conditioned yet to support you in the best position.

To reduce the risk of back pain, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that you are sitting correctly:
  • Support your back so that your lower back is supported
  • Rest your feet flat on the floor and try to avoid crossing your legs
  • Keep your screen at eye level (7)
Another unhealthy practice within the workplace is the posture of holding a telephone between your ear and your shoulder or ‘cradling your phone’. This may appear to be more practical, however this position is unnatural for both your neck and shoulders. Over time, this posture can begin to place a strain on both the muscles and the soft tissues, and increases the risk of developing a painful strain (6).

Take Breaks

There is the increasing belief that sitting for too long at work can have a negative impact on an individual’s health. A study carried out by Loughborough University and the University of Leicester suggested that spending a lot of time sat in a sedentary position (sitting down) could:
  • Increase the risk of developing symptoms of diabetes by 112%
  • Increase the risk of a cardiovascular event occurring by 147% (8)
The Start Active, Stay Active report from 2011, claims that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality as it accounts for approximately 6% of deaths globally (9). To combat this, they suggest at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day for at least 5 days a week. This can also help to prevent and manage other conditions such as heart disease, mental health problems and type 2 diabetes (9).

Make Small Adjustments

In addition to improving your posture at work, there are also other small adjustments that you can make to improve your health at work.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), is a common occurrence for people who spend a lot of time doing one activity for a long time or repeatedly (i.e. sitting at either a desk or a computer). Sitting at a desk can continually put strain on the muscles that are in use and can lead to a painful muscle, weakness and tingling. This condition mainly affects areas such as the elbows, hands shoulders, neck and forearms (10).

To help with this, there are several adjustments that can be made to help prevent the symptoms of RSI:
  • Slow down the speed of your computer mouse to relieve some of the tension in your hands
  • Use keyboard shortcuts as opposed to mouse navigation
  • If possible, use dictation software to avoid typing
  • Rest when something begins to hurt and avoid using the painful area if possible -  i.e. stop leaning on your elbow if it begins to ache (11)

Taking regular breaks can also be helpful in preventing RSI too. There are often opportunities at most jobs such as photocopying or printing that can be used to stretch your legs. If there are no such opportunities, you could speak to your employer for you to have short rest breaks (10). 

Reduce Stress

In a 2016 report, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stated that around 488,000 people had developed symptoms of work related stress that was affecting their health, which is a rate of around 1,510 people per every 100,000 (12). Some of the symptoms of work related stress can include:
  • A pounding heart or having heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Odd aches and/or pains
  • A loss of appetite (13)

It can be beneficial to your work life, and to help decrease symptoms of stress to try:

  • Recognising the symptoms of stress when they first appear and realise the effects that it can have
  • Calculate an estimation of your workload
  • Voice any concerns that you may have with your employer
  • Speak to your GP (13)


Making just a few of these small adjustments to your daily work routine now, could improve your health and wellbeing in the long run. 

Related Articles
5 ways that sleep deprivation affects your health
Is exercising enough to stop you living a sedentary life?
5 things you didn't know about diabetes

1. CDC: Show me the science- why wash your hands. Available here
2. NCBI: Acanthamoeba risk factors for contact lens wearers. Available here
3. All About Vision: Acanthamoeba Keratitis: What contact wearers need to know: Available here
4. NHS Choices: Dehydration. Available here
5. British Nutrition Foundation: Healthy Hydration Guide. Available here
6. NHS: Common Posture Mistakes. Available here
7. NHS Choices. How to sit correctly. Available here
8. NHS Choices: Having a desk job 'doubles risk' of heart attack. Available here
9. Physical Activity Team: The Stay Active, Stay Active 2011 Report. Available here  
10. NHS Choices: Prevent RSI. Available here
11. Manage WP: How to prevent repetitive strain injuries at your computer. Available here
12. HSE: Work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2016. Available here
13. NHS Choices: Beat stress at work. Available here