Health Challenges of the Office Worker
Physician's Weekly
September 23, 2022
Health Challenges of the Office Worker

To work in an office is the aspiration of many. Offices are often considered ideal working environments that are not associated with any significant health hazards. Unfortunately, those who make such an assumption are innocently unaware of the numerous health threats that are associated with office work.

Below I’ve outlined what scientific research has uncovered regarding some of the health risks of working in an office.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Seated at a desk for most of the working day, even in persons who regularly exercise, statistically increases the risks of:

Heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Cancers – Breast, colon, and ovarian

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

CTS results from constriction in the wrist of the median nerve, which is responsible for approximately 70% of the sensation and movement of the hand. Repetitive motions about the wrist – e.g. extensive keyboard use, can cause CTS. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand, including the fingers.

Lower-Back Pain

This is quite common in office workers and results from being sedentary, having poor posture, and poorly designed and ergonomically unforgiving workstations.


Focusing the eyes on a computer screen for prolonged periods can cause eye strain. This can present with sore/ burning, watery or dry eyes, blurred and, or double vision, increased sensitivity to light and difficulty keeping the eyes open.


Cramped working environments, the sharing of phones, coffee pots, surfaces, faucet handles, and air, lack of regular sanitization of surfaces and door knobs, the abundance of microbial organisms in offices, suboptimal worker hygiene, and other factors facilitate the spread of germs. Infections can include:

Respiratory tract infections

Women who are caught up in their work at their desks for long periods, while ignoring the impulse to urinate, are more prone to UTIs

Noise stress

The main sources of noise in an open office are ringing phones, air conditioners, conversations, outside traffic, personnel movement, fans, shredders, printers/ copiers/ scanners/ faxes, staplers, filing cabinets, and the closing of doors. Noisy offices increased by up to 30% the psychological stress levels for those within.

Symptoms associated with poor air quality

Poor air quality in offices can be a result of cleaning agents, microbial contamination (fungi, mold, bacteria), carbon dioxide build-up, body odor, perfumes/ colognes, volatile organic compounds from printers/ copiers, dust mites, suboptimal air conditioning design, and poor maintenance, smells emanating from the furniture and the carpet. Persons within the office may experience:

Stuffy nostrils
Throat irritation
Chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath
Dry and irritated skin
Poor concentration/ forgetfulness

Slips, trips, and falls

Office workers are more prone to tripping and falling over an open desk or file drawer, cords, tipping over in an unstable chair, slipping on wet floors, falling out of chairs when used as a stepladder, or as a result of poor lighting.

With the appropriate interventions, many of these health consequences for office workers can be prevented. If they were to arise, timely and relevant interventions can significantly mitigate the sequelae of these disorders.

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale,,, 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.