By Tony Olejnicki | Creator of HiACHIEVR Program
According to the Safe Work Australia, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are the most dangerous working environments in Australia with 44 fatalities in 2016 out of total 218 work fatalities.
Considering over 3 millions of sedentary office workers in Australia, with 8 fatalities reported in 2016, the office job appears the safest job in Australia.
According to 2018 Report, 30,000 Australians died of a sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack). And 7,500 deaths occurred at work.(*)
(*)Submission for the 2018 Review of the Model WHS Laws-30 April 2018
Major known factors were: a chronic stress followed by poor nutrition, a lack of exercise and other not-diagnosed heart conditions. The Victorian Government has acknowledged the stress is often work related.
Sedentary office workers constitute over half of Australian workers, so statistically over 3000 office workers die at work each year, as a result of the sudden cardiac arrest symptom. This, however, is not included in the office accidental death statistics due to its complex nature. The stress may not be caused exclusively by the office environment. Also, there are other contributing factors due to personal choices.
So, if you are reading this now, sitting at your office desk, you most likely work in the most dangerous job.
Any of these factors can cause a chronic stress. Do any of them apply to your working environment?
- Toxic Organisation culture
- Bad management practices
- Excessive job content and demands
- Poor relationships at work
- Long working hours sitting at the desk
- Heavy workload
- Boring work
- Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses
Are deaths due to the heart attack work related?
It is not totally clear, it all depends on the working environment and your personal health risks.
- Are you sitting more than 6 hours at your desk?
- Is your office environment chronically stressful?
- Has your doctor assessed you as as high risk for heart disease or diabetes?
If the answer to one or more of the above question is YES, you are a sterssed sedentary person. And, you are well on the way to developing one or more sedentary diseases in your 50’s.In fact your chance to get there is 50 percent.
If you had 50% chance of a car accident, you would average a prank every second day.
If so, would you care to take-up a car accident insurance?
Risks of a Death in the Office
If you are still long away from your 50’s, then consider the risk of the sedentary death syndrome (SeDS) due to an excessive sitting. A 40 years old office worker clocks in 30 years of sitting... This translates to 69,000 plus hours of sitting...
Imagine an enormous amount of stress on your body and unprecedented in 300,000 years history of human evolution.
Every extra hour spent sitting, increases the risk of dying from a SeDS as much as 18 per cent.
(*) According to a 2010 study of 8000 people by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.)
That’s true even if you exercise regularly. The research shows that to compensate for 3 hours of sitting, one would require 1 hour of exercise, clearly unachievable even for an extreme gym junky.
An excessive sitting is the reason of early onset of aging in mid 40’s rather than 60’s for non-sedentary people.
- Typically a 30 years old sedentary person reached the physiological age of 35.
- A typical sedentary 50 years old is physiologically close to 60.
- With a life expectancy of 85, controlled by the physiological rather than chronological age, the implications are obvious.
Most of sedentary office workers do more sitting than just hours at work. If your behaviour is like that on the graph below you maybe sitting 15 hours a day and this is truly extreme risky behaviour and a serious health hazard.
Sedentary Work Cycle lowers the Work Performance
The health hazard aside, sitting contributes to a poor work performance. The brain can sustain only about 30 minutes of sitting before its concentration and cognitive availability start fading rapidly.
Within one hour, the body will respond with a strong pain to force you to get-up and move. The pain is the wake-up call helping to restore the brain's full cognitive avilability.
An intensive sitter will experience 4 to 6 such events throughout a working day. This offers only 2-3 hours of effective full cognitive avilability within 8 working hours. It is also very unpleasent but most of people get used to it.
The way to reduce a risk of death at work is to change to an active work environment, reduce the stress, improve nutrition and sleeping. This will also help to reduce the physiological age and stimulate neurogenesis (brain rejuvenation). A good news about the physiological age is that, unlike the chronological age, it can be slowed down.
The optimum way to create active work environment is to switch to working at a standing work station, regular exercises and measuring your effort with a smart phone apps.
Alternatively, set a reminder to get-up every 30 minutes and compel yourself to a short stroll in the office. Find excuse and make the active office your bottom step in your hierarchy of needs.
How to Recognize Symptoms of Work-Related Stress?
The signs or symptoms of work-related stress can be physical, psychological and behavioural. Safe Work Australia lists these as follows:
- Muscular tension
- Heart palpitations
- Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia
- Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
- Dermatological disorders
- Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
- Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.
- An increase in sick days or absenteeism
- Diminished creativity and initiative
- A drop in work performance
- Problems with interpersonal relationships<
- Mood swings and irritability
- Lower tolerance of frustration and impatience
Tony Olejnicki – an engineer, motivator and exercise physiologist specializing in high altitude training is the creator of the HiACHIEVR Program, an inspirational program helping professional working in an office environment to improve productivity and life quality by lowering physiological age, improving cognition and optimizing personal health.