In the workplace, there are many different things that could be influencing our health in a negative way and therefore making us ill. However, there are several precautions we can take, that may be beneficial to us and our wellbeing.
The NHS report that washing our hands is one of the easiest ways to protect ourselves and others from illnesses such as food poisoning and flu as washing our hands properly removes dirt, viruses and bacteria. WaterAid report that keeping our hands clean reduces the number of:
- Respiratory illnesses (like colds) by 16-23%
- Pneumonia cases by 50%
- People who get sick with diarrhoea by up to 48%%
NHS recommends to wash our hands after using the toilet, handling or eating food, after blowing our noses or when we cough and after touching animals. Washing our hands is an effective way to prevent the spreading of germs from one person to another and throughout a community.
Drinking enough water
Water has many important functions in our bodies such as regulating our temperature, transporting nutrients, removing waste products and helping our joint function. With water being lost in our urine, sweat and breathing, it’s important we drink enough to avoid dehydration. Dehydration occurs when our bodies are losing more fluids than what we take in, some of the warning signs are:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or tired
The amount of fluid we need depends on many factors including the temperature, our level of activity and our age. NHS suggests we consume at least 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid a day. The fluid we drink to stay hydrated doesn’t just have to be water. The Eatwell Guide states that low fat milk and lower sugar or sugar-free drinks also count.
Correcting our posture
For many people who spend a great majority of their day sitting, it is important we support our lower backs. Whilst it may feel comfortable to slouch ourselves in our chairs, the lack of support on our backs can place strain on already sensitised muscles and soft tissue. To reduce the risk of back pain, there are a few steps we can take to ensure we are sitting correctly:
- Adjust our chairs so our lower backs are supported
- Rest our feet flat on the floor and don’t cross our legs
- Have our screens at eye level to avoid having to bend our necks
Another unhealthy practice within the workplace is the posture of holding a telephone between your ear and your shoulder also known as ‘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.
Another problem that may occur is Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) which is a general term used to describe the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. The condition usually affects parts of the upper body and spending a lot of time using a computer is a common cause. To prevent the symptoms of RSI. NHS recommends we try:
- To use keyboard shortcuts instead of our mouse to navigate
- Using autocorrect features to save us unnecessary keystrokes
- To take regular breaks to avoid sitting in the same position for long periods.
Being aware of our stress levels
- Problems sleeping
- Headaches, chest pains or high blood pressure
- Feeling sick, dizzy or faint
- Muscle tension
Stress at work can be caused by a lot of factors. The HSE identified the 6 primary causes of work-related stress to be:
- The demands of the job
- The amount of control we have over our work
- A lack of support from managers
- Failure to build relationships with other staff members
- Not understanding our role or what’s expected of us
- Change and how it is managed
Our stress management is vital in the workplace to prevent us from being at risk of developing a mental health problem. The NHS provides some general advice on coping with stress:
- Take control. Try to find a solution to the problem.
- Work smarter, not harder. Prioritise your work and concentrate on what will make a difference.
- Avoid unhealthy habits. Relying on alcohol, smoking and caffeine could make the problems worse in the long run.
The most important way to stay healthy at work starts with self-awareness. By being aware of these small issues and the adjustments we need to make to our daily work routine, we could improve our wellbeing and prevent any long-term damage.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.