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Those swanky offices may have you drooling with awe and envy but they can be just as unhealthy as a smaller, less extravagant workplace. We, as employees, need to be aware that there might be trouble brewing in the air in our offices, literally!

Dr CN Rao, a general physician from Pune, says, "Most common ailments, such as flu, stem from a unhealthy workplace. Young patients who come to me with back pain and headaches all suffer because of some workplace hazard."

He says that invariably most health problems are related to the office. "Because people today spend so much of their time in the office, many of them have a worrisome lifestyle -- they don't eat the right food, don't exercise and don't relax the mind. Therefore, these workplace hazards get a chance to manifest into a disease."


Some of the most common workplace health hazards are:
~ Computer-related: Prolonged hours in front of the computer can give rise to problems with posture, the eyes and many neurological problems. Bad posture can lead to muscular and even gastric ailments. They can cause eye problems and conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (the nerve on the wrist gets compressed due to handling the mouse, causing muscle weakness and pain).

~ Environment-related: The air you breathe can be a major cause of concern. Lack of clean air can cause fatigue, headaches and watery eyes. Air conditioners are breeding ground for diseases like Legionnaire's disease and asthma. Extremes in temperatures at your office can also cause the weakening of your immune system.

Legionnaire's Disease is caused due to the same air being re-circulated in the office. The virus stays within the environment spreading the disease. Legionnaires' disease symptoms are similar to those of the flu -- persistent cough, fever with chills, body ache, headache and an upset stomach.

"I have seen outbreaks in offices where within a week an entire office falls ill," educates Dr Rao, "The more conscientious offices literally strip the entire air-conditioning and disinfect the office."

The disease may be confirmed through a blood or urine test and is treated with antibiotics. Dr Rao advises people that if they have got it through their workplace it would be a good idea to inform the human resources department of the same.

~ Ergonomics: The lack of proper chairs can cause postural problems, these can in extreme case be debilitating. Learn to sit with your back straight, with your elbows rested on the arms of your chair while using the keyboard or mouse.


Identifying workplace hazards

Here are a few signals that you just might be falling prey to your office:
*Nagging eye problem, it could be a simple eye irritation that does not go away even after rinsing with cool water.
*Recurrent health problems such as flu, cough and cold, body aches and headaches should be checked out for more serious problems.
*Body rashes could indicate some chemical irritant around your workstation or in the air.
*Dust on the desk. Get your housekeeping department to clean the desks and workstations regularly removing unnecessary papers.

Some simple steps you can take
*Keep the smoking area well away from the office environment.
*Confirm from the housekeeping that they are cleaning the ventilator shafts regularly.
*Remove any kind of blockages around the air vents to the office.
*Maintain a comfortable temperature in the office throughout the day.
*Equipment like photocopiers, vending machines should be kept in a separate room.
*If your office has a carpet, make sure it is vacuumed at least once a week.
*Put an antiglare screen on your computer.
*Align the mouse such that you can rest your forearm on a surface (your table or armrest) so that you do not strain your wrist nerves.
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