Office Muddle Can Make One Sick

March 29, 2004 ( - Research may now provide backing to what workers have long believed - their workplace is making them ill.

To give it a name, researchers at NEC-Mitsubishi say “Irritable Desk Syndrome,” which is caused by an amalgamation of long working hours, cluttered desks and poor posture, is afflicting workers in United Kingdom. The remedy, according to the survey of 2,000 people is regular breaks and making desks more personal, according to a BBC report.

Not surprisingly, NEC-Mitsubishi found 67% of the respondents are now more tied to their desks than they were two years ago and around 40% said they were infuriated by too much clutter and paper on their desks. However, despite their ire, this group said they could not be bothered to do anything about it.

Another 35% said they suffered from back or neck pain because they knowingly sit at their desk in an awkward position.

To help workers along, NEC-Mitsubishi teamed up with Open Ergonomics to produce a simple “Deskology” guide to help people improve their work area. The guide included helpful hints are reducing clutter and improving workplace morale, such as:

  • Pay more attention to the way you set up your desk to reduce stress and health risks.
  • Adjusting the way you sit to improve back posture.
  • Take a few minutes to stretch at your desk to reduce injury from routine activity.
  • Take regular breaks away from your desk to improve concentration, overall health and colleague interaction.
  • Give your desk individuality to remind you of life outside work.
  • Prevent dehydration and overheating at work to promote higher energy levels.
  • Organize your desk to reduce stress levels and increase productivity.

“Deskologist” Nigel Robertson, a consultant at Open Ergonomics, urged workers to take the matter seriously. “What most individuals fail to realize is that desk symptoms typically escalate very quickly, from persistent discomfort to chronic pain which can end a person’s career and reduce their quality of life in a wide range of ways,” he told the BBC.

“The two essentials for less stressful, more productive desk management are: don’t endure – act today; and do it yourself – don’t wait for someone else to fix it for you,” Robertson added.