6 Things We All Do at Work – That Are Bad for Your Health

May 27, 2019

These are common things we do at work that are bad for our health.

Recently, I watched one of our newer courses on LinkedIn Learning, Ergonomics 101, taught by Bard Phillips. And, frankly, it was enlightening.

For example, I have lower back pain and I have poor eyes. Both of those are made worse by how I sit in the office and how I structure my day.

Maybe you have those symptoms or pain in your wrists or some other medical issue or no issue at all. Regardless, it’s a fascinating course, and one I recommend watching in full (it’s short; less than 40 minutes).

The course had many interesting nuggets within it. But here are six that jumped out to me – as they are all common things many professionals do at work, and yet are not-so-good for our health.

In one of her videos in her LinkedIn Learning course Ergonomics 101, Instructor Barb Phillips lists risk factors that can lead to back pain, like putting your jacket on the back of your chair.

1. You use a laptop computer with no stand.

Admission here – I am typing this from a laptop with no stand. And I have lower back issues.

Those two are related, according to Phillips. When you use a laptop, you tend to curl up (I call it the “T-Rex posture”). That puts stress on your lower back and can lead to back issues over time.

The solution is to connect your laptop to a larger monitor, to use a stand for your laptop or, if you have a standing desk, put your laptop on that. 

2. Your computer is at the corner of your desk.

Back pain is one of those ubiquitous problems most professionals experience in their lifetime. A big driver of it – working in awkward positions.

A perfect example, according to Phillips – putting your computer at the corner of your desk. This forces you to sit at a 45-degree angle, which puts your body at an awkward angle and increases the stress on your back and neck.

Simple solution – put your computer directly in front of you. It’ll help you sit more naturally.

3. You sit – or stand – all day long.

Sitting all day is not good for you (it’s not quite the new smoking, but it’s not great). Although neither is standing all day.

The best? Both. Sitting gives your body a chance to relax, whereas standing gives your body some movement, Phillips said.

Some of us have access to standing desks, which solves this problem as you can go up and down. But for those who don’t, a few options are:

  • Creating your own standing desk, by putting your computer on a stand.
  • Going for walking meetings or for literally having a standing meeting, instead of always sitting for them.
  • Walking around the office – or, most gloriously, going outside – to stretch out your legs.

And on and on. The bigger point – if you can, try not to sit or stand all day. The best solution is to mix it up.

4. You sit and your feet aren’t on the ground.

The ideal sitting situation is to put your feet on the ground, as that makes you sit up straight and takes strain off of your back.

If your feet are in the air, you are losing two of your natural bases. And, invariably, we make up for this by putting addition strain on either our backs and necks.

This is fine for short periods. Do this hour after hour, day after day, though, and you will have issues. So, when you sit, do your best to sit with your feet firmly planted on the ground.

5. You stare at a screen all day without a break.

The number of people who are nearsighted has spiked over the past 50 years and only continues to get higher and higher. Why?

Humans now spend significantly more time staring at screens than they did before. That’s causing eye strain, which is causing more and more people to need prescription lenses.

Good news – you can prevent eye strain, even if you have a job that requires you to do a lot of staring at a screen (like many of us have). Phillips recommends adopting the 20-20-20 method – every 20 minutes, blink 20 times and look at something at least 20 feet away – to give your eyes a break.

6. You hold stress in your body.

We all feel stress in our jobs. Most of us hold that stress in our bodies somewhere – our back, our forehead, our shoulders, wherever.

This, as you probably assumed, is really bad for you. Having this tension all the time concentrated in specific areas will lead to pain and inflammation in that area.

The solution here is to diminish the amount of stress you feel – more help on that here – and breath through stress when you do feel it – more help on that here. The less stress you feel and the better you are at releasing that stress, the healthier you will be.

Big picture, to have a great career, you need to take care of your physical health. While these are six common problems that cause pain, the bigger lesson is to listen to your body and ensure you treat it right.

Want to learn more? Watch the LinkedIn Learning course Ergonomics 101.

Topics within the course cover how to: