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Posture-related workplace stress

A new report from the UK's Chartered Society of Physiotherapy shows one employee in four regularly works all day without taking a break — which can be both a cause and a symptom of workplace stress.

Gulf News

It can be attributed to a number of reasons: work overload, bad posture, lack of exercise and the curious "presenteeism" syndrome, (the opposite of absenteeism), that has been mentioned here before. Physiotherapists are very concerned about the health implications of the problem of bad posture and its impact on work performance.

Significantly, half of those questioned said they worked through their lunch break because they had too much work to do — often because they were under-staffed. More than half said they still attended work even when feeling unwell, an obvious cause of stress and anxiety. Significantly, nearly 50 per cent reported physical pain from sitting in the same position for too long. And about the same proportion declared they were too busy to take any exercise!

As a workplace stress consultant, I can immediately identify all these factors as prolonged pressure, either physical or mental, that can cause stress. Both sickness absence and attending when sick can prove equally costly for employers. Unfortunately, today's often obsessively long-hours culture increases problems associated with bad posture and the report emphasises the increased risk of chronic musculoskeletal disorders, obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes type 2 and stroke, all symptoms that are familiar to me among my clients, worldwide.

One of my very first stress counselling cases involved bad work posture. The client worked in a warehouse in East Yorkshire, whose job entailed handling and lifting motorbike parts. It was an old building, with narrow passages and high shelving. One day, he leaned too far forward to pick up a heavy engine housing and damaged a spinal disc. He was subsequently replaced by a much younger, fitter man.

The loss of his job caused my client both stress and depression and I would visit him at his home, to try to revive his self-esteem and to look for another less physically demanding job. He seemed to be at his happiest when talking about his three sons. I remember his joy when the youngest one got into college. "No warehousing work for him," he said, obviously thinking of his son enjoying a comfortable office life, free of physical stress.

Last year, I was called into a firm specialising in online, fraud detection, where the team had been working long hours on a highly lucrative contract demanding 24/7 attendance for weeks on end. Several were suffering posture-related symptoms of stress I noticed one of the sufferers had the same name as my old warehouseman client — an unusual name, and I think I recognised a family resemblance!

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee well-being consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies - www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Too few breaks

  • New evidence reveals that half of us work through our lunch break
  • Sickness absence and sickness presence are equally costly
  • Long hours induce posture-related problems that cause physical stress
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