Blake McGowan, CPE, Managing Consultant of Humantech, Inc., tackles our five most pressing questions about the downsides of living on your backside.

Mediaplanet: What are the dangers in prolonged sitting?

Blake McGowan: Sedentary behaviors, such as prolonged sitting, are associated with higher risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and mortality. In addition, the rates of mortality associated with prolonged sitting are not influenced by increased physical activity or lower body mass index (BMI).

MP: What is the biggest danger within an office setting?

BW: Overall, the (top three) biggest dangers in the office environment are prolonged static postures (either standing or sitting), improper workstation setup and poor equipment. The top six ergonomic issues in the office workplace are:

  • Improper monitor height and placement

  • Improper workstation surface height

  • Uncomfortable chairs

  • Insufficient chair backrest adjustability

  • Inability to adjust all workstation equipment for both sitting and standing

  • Uncomfortable office workplace temperature

MP: What is the biggest muscle strain in an office?

BW: About 3 in 10 experience muscles discomfort at work. Additionally, 6 percent of employees experience headaches at work. For those who reported discomfort, here are the top six body parts that experience discomfort:

  • Eyes: 39 percent

  • Shoulders: 35 percent

  • Upper back: 35 percent

  • Lower back: 35 percent

  • Wrists: 27 percent

  • Hands: 22 percent

MP: What are the hazards of staring at a computer screen all day?

BW: Working at a computer all day requires the eyes to continuously focus, move back and forth, and align with what you are seeing. Staring at a screen all day can lead to Computer Vision Syndrome. Symptoms include neck pain, headaches, eye fatigue and visual discomfort. Typically, more than 50 percent of people who view a screen have at least some symptoms of eye trouble. This includes both adults and children.

MP: Why are germs passed so easily within shared space in an office?

BW: The most common way for germs and infections to spread is person-to-person—touching hands, sneezing, coughing, etc. Unfortunately, more people than ever report that they go to work despite being sick. Workers’ hands come in contact with 10 million bacteria a day.

Also, 40 percent of people don’t wash their hands. Four of 5 infections are transmitted by touch. With a third of offices now using shared spaces, it is easy to understand why it is so easy to spread germs in the office.