The 7 most dangerous things about working in an office (and they might surprise you!)

The office – do you work in one? Over the course of our working lives we usually have to spend some time in an office – even jobs where you are not chained to a desk, often management or administration is done from a place that closely resembles a typical cubicle farm.

Did you know that there are many harmful things to be found in your typical office? From stress to prolonged periods of siting down, here are 7 surprising things that can do you harm that can be found in the typical office. This post was originally posted on the Employers Connect Blog.

Office danger #1: Germs

Offices can be hotbeds of germs! The University of Arizona recently conducted a survey at an office in the US that had about 80 employees. According to The Wall Street Journal, “They contaminated a push-plate door at the building entrance with a virus similar to common cold and stomach flu viruses.”

Scarily, within only two hours it had spread around the office, to the coffee machine, microwave, refrigerator and all the door handles. After that it spread to desks and the toilet cubicles. After that, it headed to phones. “By four hours, they found the virus on more than 50% of the commonly touched surfaces and on hands of about half of the employees in the office,” says the Journal.


Office danger #2: Stress

We all know that work can be stressful at times, but could that stress actually kill you? Some scientists say yes. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine recently discovered that stress may in fact lead to sudden death.

Researchers performed mental stress tests on a group of volunteer patients. They were hounded with “rapid-fire arithmetic questions” then “harshly reprimanded for incorrect responses” sort of like what might happen to a typical office worker. The hearts of those people showed that they were beating at irregular rhythms in a potentially harmful way – the type of rhythm that might eventually lead to a heart attack.

Office danger #3: Sitting down all day

Perhaps you’ve heard this chestnut? Recent research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that the more time you spend sitting, the more the length of your telomeres increases. Telomeres are the “protective caps” which are made from DNA and protein. These sit at the end of each of our chromosomes and stop damage occurring during cell division.

These little telomeres affect how long our body’s cells live. Shorter telomeres are linked to various diseases, including heart disease, cancer, obesity diabetes and stroke. By sitting down you could be effectively shaving months, if not years, off your life. Office workers sit for an average of 8 or 9 hours every day – a fact that could be costing them dearly.

Office danger #4: The office microwave

It can be said that microwaves don’t always heat food evenly. Often, they will leave cold pockets of air next to hot pockets within your food. This can cause food poisoning in many cases. “If you’re working with raw meat, this can be dangerous, since it could leave harmful bacteria,” says US organisation, The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

They have warned consumers to make sure they “follow heating instructions carefully, including the standing time needed for additional cooking.” If you regularly use a microwave at work, this could be something to be aware of!

Office danger #5: Injuries in the workplace

It’s a sad but very true fact, in Australia, lots of people get injured on the job. The Key Work Health and Safety Statistics Booklet Australia 2014 provides a statistical summary of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities. Sadly, the news is not great.

In 2010 and 2011, there were more than 130 thousand workers’ compensation claims for serious work-related injuries or illnesses. This equates to an incidence rate of 13.1 serious claims per 1000 employees, a huge number. Put simply, just being at work can cause a person serious harm – in fact, in 2012, more than 200 workers died due to an injury that happened at work. This equates to almost two deaths per hundred thousand workers.

Office danger #6: Walking to and from work

Do you walk to and from work? Do you catch the train and have to walk a few blocks to the office? In fact, this could be one of the most dangerous parts of your day. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 3pm was the time when people were most likely to come to harm.

“It’s just after lunch, it’s afternoon and it’s a bit warm in the car. People get drowsy and they have also been up for a while,” said Professor of Road Safety at University of New South Wales, Raphael Grzebieta. The data in the SMH articles also revealed that men were “almost three times more likely to die in a road-related accident than females are.”

Office danger #7: Snacking

When forced to sit down in an office all day, every day, people can often revert to ‘comfort’ behaviour. Snacking needlessly can be one of these behaviours and can adversely affect our waistlines and lives in general.

“The most common health risk associated with overeating on a regular basis is weight gain,” according to Sarah White from the Love To Know health website. “Depending on your weight before the overeating began, becoming severely overweight or obese is a real possibility.” There are a whole slew of troubles that present when someone routinely overeats, including life-threatening issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.


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