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HealthInfo Canterbury

Workplace wellness

FDP call centreWorkplaces come in all shapes and sizes, and each one has different challenges in terms of staying well.

Physical work can cause serious injuries, but there are also significant health risks with sedentary work, where we sit a lot and don't get the chance to move around. Sitting for long periods of time sends your muscles into a dormant state, which can badly affect your metabolism.

More of us are doing sedentary work. As well, many of us are under increasing pressure to work faster, which can cause stress. But there are things you can do to minimise risks to your health while you are working.

Eat well

Make sure you're sitting or standing correctly

There is a helpful guide to setting yourself up at your workstation on Habit at Work. Choose where you work, in an office or an industrial workplace. You can then find the guide to setting up your workstation under "Learning: work in comfort".

If you are feeling sore or uncomfortable, talk to your GP and your employer. It may help to get a workplace assessment from a registered health professional to identify what is causing your pain and how to get rid of it. Your employer may be willing to pay for this, and may employ occupational health staff, or already have a contract with a private provider.

Or you might like to search online for a private occupational safety professional.

You can also find information on safe work techniques for industrial workers on Habit at Work (click on "industrial", then "Learning: Work in comfort").

Keep active at work

Sitting all day, or most of the day at work will have a serious effect on your long-term health. For example, it increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Look for ways to move around more. For example, you could:

Lifting safely

If you lift heavy weights at work, there are good guidelines to help in this leaflet called Safe lifting and carrying techniques.

Hearing and vision

FDP welderWear protective hearing to reduce the risk of hearing loss if you work in an area with loud or piercing noise. The National Foundation for the Deaf has more information about noise-induced hearing loss, and how to avoid it.

Working outdoors, driving, and working with high-glare tools like welders can affect your eyesight. To prevent this you need to wear the right kind of eye protection. WorkSafe has guidelines on protecting your eyes, and treating injuries.

If you work at a computer for long periods, make sure the lighting is good enough for you to read the screen without getting tired eyes or headaches. Have an eye check regularly to make sure you are not straining your eyes. You may need to wear glasses when working at a computer.

Stress and work-life balance

Trying to do too much work in the time available, conflict at work, or workplace bullying can all cause stress and affect your ability to work. So too can stressful events at home, such as moving house, a relationship break-up, or the death of someone close to you. Talk to your employer if possible. If your company uses a counselling service, make an appointment to see a counsellor. You will also find some advice on dealing with stress in this section.

It is really important to not be overtaken by work, as this can lead to exhaustion, stress and ill health. It's best to find a balance between work and other activities that you enjoy. If work is taking over your life, talk to your GP or a counsellor about why this is happening and what you can do to change it.

Shift work

Shift work can be a real challenge if you rotate between day and night shifts, as it's hard to maintain a good routine and your sleep will be affected. We also find it harder to adjust to shift work as we get older. You can find tips for dealing with shift work on this Sleep Health Foundation page.

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Written by Jane Cowan-Harris, occupational therapist, Canterbury. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated September 2016.

Page reference: 123350

Review key: HIWPW-123350