Hidden Health Risks in the Modern Office

Written by Chloe Harwood

OK, so the health risks in modern offices may not seem much when compared with environments like constructions sites and mines, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t dangers to watch out for when you take a seat at your workstation. It’s just that the perils in these seemingly benign spaces tend to be harder to spot. Here are just a few of the hidden health risks that could affect you when you’re in your office.

Back and neck strain

If you sometimes get pain in your back or neck when you’ve been sitting at your desk, rest assured you’re not alone. These health problems are a scourge of the modern workspace and they’re a major cause of staff absence. The fact is, sitting down for long periods of time can put strain on the vertebrae and muscles in your back and neck, causing discomfort and potentially injury.

The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of back and neck ache. Firstly, make sure you have access to comfortable office chairs that provide plenty of support for your lower back and are properly padded and suitably shaped to prevent uncomfortable pressure on your thighs. Ideally, your seating should be adjustable too. It also helps to make sure you get up from your desk on a regular basis. Experts recommend taking at least a five-minute break every hour. Meanwhile, when you’re in your chair, make sure you sit up straight rather than slouch.


Another hidden health risk is sickness. Offices can be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Highlighting this fact, research conducted by Which? found that smartphones, computer keyboards and tablets all gave high readings of germs. It conducted swab tests of the devices and revealed that one iPad had 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause food poisoning. This compared with just 20 units of the same bug on an office toilet. Meanwhile, the dirtiest keyboard registered 480 units of Staphylococcus. Also, being in a confined space with lots of other people can put you at greater risk of contracting contagious illnesses like colds, flu and stomach bugs.

To reduce your risk of becoming sick at work, try to keep your workstation and equipment as clean as possible, and wash your hands on a regular basis. Also, if flu is a big problem in your office, consider getting a flu jab.


Headaches are also a menace for many workers. Excessive stress, too much noise and heating and air conditioning systems can all raise the risk that you’ll suffer these pains. Bad lighting can also have this effect. Research conducted by Canada Life Group Insurance found that 13 per cent of workers polled said poor quality office lighting has caused them to suffer headaches.

To keep these pains at bay, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day and do your best to keep your stress levels in check. Also, try to ensure you have enough light at your workstation. This could mean using a desk lamp in addition to any overhead lighting.  

As this list shows, there are plenty of risks to watch out for when you step into your workspace. However, by making sure you’re aware of the dangers, you stand a better chance of staying safe and comfortable.

About the author

Chloe Harwood