With the majority of our hours spent at work, the static nature of office-based jobs can lead to a number of common workplace illnesses. When we aren’t feeling our best, our work feels the impact. Staying healthy, both physically and mentally, is therefore crucial to being productive and reaching our potential.
10 common workplace illnesses & tips on how to prevent and cure them
It’s likely that everyone has faced, or will face, one of these ailments before they retire. Learn about 10 common types of workplace illness and what you can do to prevent and cure them so you don’t fall behind.
1. Notification anxiety
With different applications open that are needed to complete our jobs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of notifications received. Managing notifications can alleviate some stress and help you concentrate.
Notification anxiety is the nervousness experienced when one is overwhelmed by alerts received. These alerts can be from emails, instant messages, text messages, or different applications. It can lead to the inability to focus, hesitation to respond, and higher stress levels.
- Limit how often you check emails by blocking off time throughout your day. Eliminate the obsession for inbox-zero.
- Mute internal communication applications during times where you need to focus on important tasks. These tools simplify collaboration but can distract from your work.
- Don’t be available for everything. Limit your availability to others by not responding to notifications or emails immediately, and by disconnecting from work on evenings and weekends.
- Click the unsubscribe button. Unsubscribe from irrelevant content, whether that’s leaving channels or unsubscribing from emails.
MeisterTip: Read our team guide to productive Slack use.
2. Sensory overload
The amount of stimuli around us in the office, from conversations to instant messages, can lead to a feeling of sensory overload.
Sensory overload in the workplace is the feeling of anxiety caused by overstimulation. Individuals feel overwhelming anxiety and incapable of tolerating external stimuli.
- Take regular breaks. Take multiple breaks throughout your day. Leave your phone at your desk and step away to reset how you’re feeling.
- Find ways to escape. If the areas surrounding your desk are abuzz, find a quieter area to work. If not possible, consider investing in a pair of soundproof headphones.
- Implement mindfulness practices. To train yourself to be more calm and open to stimuli, implement mindfulness practices such as meditation.
3. Decision fatigue & decision avoidance
It’s estimated that we make 35,000 decisions every day. By the end of the day, feeling emotionally drained can be partially attributed to the mental energy it takes to make decisions. The more decisions we make, the harder it can be to decide later — leading to decision avoidance.
Decision fatigue is when one feels emotionally tired due to the amount of decisions they’ve had to make. As more decisions are made throughout the day, the outcomes can turn negative. Decision avoidance is when one avoids making a decision due to anxiety.
- Create a system of making better business decisions by using templates or other tools. Experiment to find what works best and implement it in your decision-making routine.
- Reduce the number of decisions you have to make. Routinize as many decisions as possible. For example, you can start by picking out your outfit the night before or eating a similar lunch everyday.
- Delegate when possible. Don’t make every decision by yourself. Delegate decisions to others when you’re overwhelmed with the amount of decisions you have.
- Set decision deadlines. Set deadlines for yourself to avoid procrastination and delaying a decision.
- Make important decisions early in the day. Instead of agonizing about the outcome of a big decision all day, tackle it first thing in the morning when your mind is still fresh.
4. Imposter syndrome
Self-doubt can affect our work and how we present it to others. It can keep us from going after new opportunities and putting ourselves out there in a meaningful way.
Imposter syndrome is the self-doubt one has about their professional achievements. People suffering from this often feel like a hoax and that their weaknesses will eventually be exposed.
- Establish yourself as a thought-leader through mentorship. Mentorship is a great way to give back, show off your expertise, build your personal brand, and boost your self-confidence.
- Write down your accomplishments and compliments. Whenever you receive a compliment, write it down. When you’re down, reread your notes to see all that you’ve achieved and give your confidence a boost.
- Accept mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, it’s how you deal with them that matters. If you see each mistake as a learning experience, you can use it to grow and improve.
Burn-out is so widespread that the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified it as an occupational phenomenon. Take control of how work stress affects you physically and mentally before burn-out takes root.
As defined by the WHO, burn-out results “from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Those suffering from burn-out feel worn out, perform less efficiently, and feel negatively towards their work.
- Take advantage of your vacation days. Preventing burn-out can be as simple as taking time off. If you can’t afford a vacation, stay home and enjoy time where you aren’t working.
- Talk to your manager or HR. An open line of communication is crucial to your happiness and dealing with burn-out before it leads to quitting.
- Develop a strategy to manage your stress. Achieving a good work-life balance is crucial for your health and helps prevent burn-out long-term.
Exhaustion and tiredness are common themes across workplaces. There are many factors that contribute to our alertness.
Tiredness is when you are physically and/or mentally exhausted. It’s the point where you wish for relaxation. Tiredness can make normal tasks feel more demanding.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep. Implement a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. A good night’s sleep is crucial for eliminating tiredness.
- Drink more water and limit caffeine. Caffeine may give you a quick boost of energy, but too much caffeine can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. Try limiting your caffeine intake for a month and see how you feel. In the meantime, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Watch your diet to avoid the post-lunch slump. Carb and protein heavy diets can lead to tiredness after a meal. Eating a light, plant-based meal can help you stay energized.
- Get moving during the day. Sitting all day can lead to tiredness. Get moving every hour even if it’s just a quick lap around the office.
7. Dry eyes
If you’re working a typical job in an office, you likely spend the majority of your day staring at a screen. This can lead to dry eyes since we don’t blink as often while staring at a computer — a whopping 66% less, according to some sources.
Dry eyes occurs when your eyes feel more dry than usual due to forgetting to blink. This can feel irritating and cause strain on your eyes.
- Use the 20-20-20 rule. Escaping a computer screen is unlikely, but you can limit the effects of dry eyes. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.
- Wear glasses instead of contacts. Contacts can assist in dry eye symptoms because they limit the amount of moisture that can get underneath. If possible, get a pair of computer glasses — these come with an anti-reflective coating and color tint to help alleviate or prevent digital eyestrain.
- Try to keep your monitor below your eye-level. When your monitor is located above eye-level, you’ll need to open your eyes wider to view the screen. Keep your monitor below eye-level to avoid opening more than necessary.
Wrist pain can often be associated with the amount of time we spend typing each day. Preventing tendonitis is key in staying productive long-term.
Tendonitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon. Repetition of the same activity, such as typing, can lead to tendonitis.
- Upgrade your office supplies. If you have wrist pain, upgrade your office tools to minimize the effects. Look into ergonomic keyboards, gel wrist pads, or a fitted desk or chair.
- Keep your keyboard flat and watch your wrist position. Don’t raise your keyboard because it will require you to hold your wrists in an unnatural position. Identify how your wrists rest and try to keep them in as neutral a position as possible.
- Stretch and rest. Stretch your wrists and rest them regularly. Take regular breaks from typing to avoid overworking your wrists and remove any accessories that may weigh your wrists down.
9. Poor posture & back pain
Implementing good posture into your habitual routine isn’t easy. It can feel uncomfortable and more painful than what we’re used to. However, poor posture can lead to back problems for you down the road, so taking action is worth the effort.
Back pain is discomfort and physical pain located in the back. Back pain can be attributed to poor posture or overuse of muscles in the back.
- Correct your posture. Fixing your posture is one of the easiest solutions. Identify how you sit and work to change it. This change may be uncomfortable initially, but your back will thank you later.
- Adjust your chair to have adequate back support. Make sure that the chair you sit in all day is helping and not harming you by adjusting it to have adequate back support. Consider buying a pillow if you can’t adjust the chair.
- Stretch. It’s simple, but stretching can also help alleviate back pain. Yoga and other types of stretching can help strengthen your back.
10. Bad breath
While bad breath isn’t directly caused by sitting in an office each day, it is a widespread problem that can negatively affect your relationship with colleagues and your self-esteem.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is when one’s breath has an unnatural odor. The odor that comes from your mouth is unpleasant and can be caused by your diet, having a dry mouth, or potentially an infection.
- Drink plenty of water. Bad breath can stem from being dehydrated and having a dry mouth. Try to stay hydrated by drinking the recommended amount of water each day.
- Chew sugar-free gum. Conscious about your breath before a meeting? Keep a pack of sugar-free gum at your desk to freshen your breath and mask the smell.
- Keep a portable toothbrush with you. If your meals often contain potent smells, consider keeping a portable toothbrush with you for emergencies.
- See a dentist regularly. Bad breath can result from infections in the mouth, so keep up on your dental hygiene by visiting the dentist regularly to prevent and treat any problems.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Your health needs to be a priority in both your personal and professional life. Work to prevent these common workplace illnesses, but if you fall victim, make sure you treat them right away. There are a number of changes you can make in your daily routine to prevent these ailments, and your efforts will pay off: Being healthy at work can help you reach your goals and get that promotion you’ve had your eye on.