Health matters

Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.
Hale and Hearty: Public Health Specialist for NHS Derbyshire County Julie Hirst.

AS part of our ongoing series of health columns, Julie Hirst, public health specialist for NHS Derbyshire County, including Buxton and the High Peak, talks about health at work.

Our working environment can play a huge part in our health and well being with most of our waking hours being spent at work.

From 2010 to 2011, about 26.4 million working days were lost due to workplace injury and ill-health. The biggest causes of absence from work are stress and back pain.

The good news is that there are many things that we can do to reduce our risk of work-related ill-health. We can also use our time at work to even boost our health!

Getting active at work is easier than you may think. Here are some tips for building exercise into your working day:

* Cycle or walk part, if not all, of your journey to work. Get off one bus or tram stop before your final destination.

* Walk over to someone’s desk at work rather than speaking to them by phone.

* Take the stairs instead of the lift. Or get out of the lift a few floors early, and then use the stairs.

* Use your lunch break to exercise. Your office may have a gym, or you may have access to a nearby swimming pool or squash courts.

* Encourage your organisation to support imaginative ways to help employees improve their health and fitness in the workplace. It will boost morale, increase productivity and can reduce levels of absence.

Improving your general fitness and losing weight if you need to will also benefit your posture and help to prevent injury.

If you spend a lot of your time at work sitting at a desk, make sure you’re sitting in the right position in relation to your computer. If you’re unsure about correct posture, ask your line manager for a workplace assessment.

If you work on a computer a lot, it’s important to take regular breaks. That means for every hour at your keyboard you should rest for at least five to 10 minutes.

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is more likely to occur if you spend long periods of work without a break, or if you sit on an uncomfortable chair or at a poorly arranged workstation. Incorrect technique when using a computer keyboard and mouse, mobile phone or hand-held device can all cause RSI.

About 10.8 million days were lost because of work-related stress, depression and anxiety from 2010 to 2011. While not all stress is work-related, knowing how to deal with a lot of pressure at work is important.

Learn to identify the symptoms of stress. Don’t wait for it to make you ill before you do something about it. One of the best ways of dealing with stress is knowing how to prioritise your workload and not taking on more than you can handle.

So let’s do all we can now to be healthier at work. Go to the Health for Work website at for more information about staying healthy at work or how to support employees or colleagues with health issues. You can also call their advice line on 0800 077 8844.