The Dangers Of A Cubicle Job

Katie Young
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Wednesday - April 09, 2008
| Del.icio.us

An article posted on Yahoo recently listed the country’s least-healthy jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Among them were jobs in hospitals, restaurants and - are you ready for this - cubicles.

Cubicles? Short of a picture frame falling on your head, a stray tack poking your finger or you accidentally stapling something that shouldn’t be stapled, how many dangers can a cubicle job really hold, right?

Plenty. According to the BLS report, office and administrative staff ranked second in terms of injuries and illnesses, and computer specialists ranked eighth. The problem in these professions includes repetitive strain injuries from typing, ergonomic issues, inhaling toxic printing inks and other substances, and bad workplace design. Sales staff professionals also ranked third among the top eight least healthy jobs, thanks to salespeople who accidentally fall from ladders while gathering merchandise or who strain themselves while typing reports.


I thought I was safe in my cubicle. But when I got a pinched nerve and bulging disc in my neck a couple of years ago, I took a long, hard look at how I was operating in my cubicle on a daily basis. I was not ergonomically correct as I sat and typed, even though when I first started the human resources director showed me how I could be.

I got lazy about taking frequent breaks to stretch my neck and move around. I sat and sat all day long with one leg curled up on my chair because it was comfortable. I’d get working on a project and sit for hours at a time without moving anything but my fingers to type.

My doctor and physical therapist warned me, “You can’t do that! You have to get up and move around!”

I was told that once every 15 or 20 minutes I should stop typing and stretch my arms, neck and back and look around the room to rest my eyes. (This required that I stand up since I couldn’t see over my cubicle ledge.)

Many injuries are caused by not taking the time to stretch or relax. If you were a track athlete, you’d make sure to stretch before you hit the track, right? Well, it’s a bit of an athletic feat to use the same muscles to sit at a computer for hours at a time too.

If you forget to get up, then set your watch timer to go over every 20 to 30 minutes to get you in the habit of stretching and taking breaks to relax your muscles.

I was also told to get regular exercise and strengthen my neck muscles, which have the heavy job of holding up my bulbous head. Again, like an athlete you need to train and work out to be at your best. The same is true for your cubicle job.

My physical therapist taught me exercises to isolate and strengthen the muscles in my neck as well as several exercises to build up my forearm, shoulder and back muscles.


It’s still a chore sometimes for me to do these exercises, and I need to be reminded every now and then. But I know that if I want to continue to do what I love - which is to write - I have to make sure my body is in tip-top shape and doesn’t give out on me mid-story.

It was a painful lesson for me - one that has taken the last couple of years to make better. But apparently, I’m not alone.

Many of you out there are suffering from injuries incurred in your sedentary jobs.

Of course, there are other occupations that cause serious injuries and illnesses (BLS reports construction workers; nursing aides, orderlies and attendants; janitors and housekeepers; registered nurses and waiters among the remaining top eight most dangerous jobs).

Are you at risk? The main thing is to stay safe, think about your health and make an injury-free future the goal.

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