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17 September 2014
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Should I Worry About... The Office?

We are the most stressed out nation in Europe. We have the longest working hours and the shortest holidays. Stress is now the major cause of absence from work.

In a survey of 1,000 people across the country, almost half admitted to being stressed at work, and of that half, 93 percent ascribed that stress to their work.

According to occupational psychologist Donna Dawson, the long-term effects of stress on our health can be fatal. Stress is linked with high blood pressure, higher rates of heart attacks, coronary heart disease, backache, joint pain, respiratory illness, ulcers and even some forms of cancer.

The good news is that if you are seriously stressed at work, your boss is now legally obliged to take action. This 21st century epidemic is no longer something that just has to be put up with.

Sick desks

It's not just the amount of work on your desk that could be making you ill - it could be your desk itself. Did you know that a study in America found that the average office desk can harbour up to 400 times more germs than the average toilet seat? If your desk is dirty, you could catch colds, flu, diarrhoea and at worse, hepatitis A.

In order to avoid these office nasties, the solution is simple - don't eat at your desk. Crumbs provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply and make your desk a 'bacteria cafeteria'.

Sick buildings

Do you feel unwell as soon as you enter your office? Well, you're not alone. Sick Building Syndrome is a widespread phenomenon officially recognised by The World Health Organisation, and it could affect as many as one in four buildings in Britain.

Symptoms include respiratory problems, headaches, allergic reactions, fatigue, nausea, impaired co-ordination and general ill health. Symptoms are normally shared by more than one person in the same office and disappear shortly after leaving the building.

What causes Sick Building Syndrome? It could be the cocktail of chemicals lurking in the carpets and furniture, or emissions from your photocopier or laser printer. It can even be as mundane as badly maintained air conditioning pumping stale air around your office.

What can you do if you think your office might be making you sick? Well, again, your boss is legally responsible for your overall health and safety in the office. It's up to him or her to take your complaint seriously. If they don't, contact your trade union or the Health and Safety Executive.

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Should I Worry About...

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 Elsewhere on

Is a little stress healthy?
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 Elsewhere on the web

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Learn about your rights at work on this Trades Union Congress website.

The Health and Safety Executive
The British workplace health and safety regulator has information about Sick Building Syndrome.

Employment relations
A Department of Trade and Industry site focussing on the relationship between employers and workers.

Public Concern At Work
A charity offering free advice to potential whistleblowers concerned about safety at work.

Stressed out or chilled out?
Ten tips to beat stress in the office from

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