Outside the Office
Are office jobs bad for your health? Based on my own personal experience, I’d have to say “yes.”
I have noticed a few nice changes in my health since the day my most recent office job ended in November. (I am a currently unemployed student who is beginning to take on web development projects for extra cash)
Here is a brief list. While it’s possible that the following changes did not occur solely because I’m not working, I would say the timing is particularly interesting. Is the lack of an office job the culprit? You decide.
1. My blood pressure has dropped significantly. Last year (and the year before) it was running around 135/80 (High blood pressure runs in my family) which for a young, healthy guy like me was alarming. That top number sometimes even cracked 140. What’s it like now? Most recently it was 109/69! That top number (diastolic) has not been above 119 since December.
2. My low back problems have virtually disappeared. This might be one of my more alarming improvements. I’ve had lower back issues for the last 5 or 6 years (seems like a lot of people have back problems) and nothing I did seemed to make much difference (not even stretching and yoga.) But for the last two or three months my back has gotten progressively better, to the point where now I don’t have to take any Advil after any kind of exercise. I used to practically live on the stuff! I haven’t been doing anything different except be more active in the past month and (obviously) sit around a lot less. Office jobs are killers for your back.
3. My afternoon “tired-spells” have decreased significantly. While I worked at my last job (and jobs before it) I would always get quite tired around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I’d be sitting at my desk, and slowly my productivity would slow to a crawl to the point where I could barely keep my eyes open! By evening I’d usually be feeling a bit better. This almost never happens to me now, whereas it was an almost daily nuisance while I was working 40 hours per week, even on weekends.
This is an obvious one – I’m sleeping better now because the stress is gone and I don’t have to force myself to get up at a certain time.
4. My financial prospects are better. What?! Are you serious?! You might think I’m crazy. I have very little income, am not working, but here I am thumbing my nose at the “cold hard reality of unemployment” and even smirking a bit. I swear it’s true.
While I was slaving away at the office I earned a bit over $13 per hour. With my monthly expenses, taxes and bills eating away 95% of my income, this might as well have been 70 cents an hour. At the rate I was going I never would have gotten anywhere. What I was doing was not a career, but a job. It was a dead end.
So, I lost my job. Big deal. I turned around, sold my car and went back to school. Now, I’m learning something new. (Flash and Web Development) I’m going into a bit of debt to do it, yes, but it’s a career that is far more lucrative. I’m going to come out ahead, have more time, and be able to work for myself soon (I’ve already started!)
While it may not be a universal truth that working less is better for you, I am pretty damn sure that it was for me. And perhaps a lot of unnecessary health problems could be eliminated if we simply worked fewer hours!
This site states that job stress is more associated with health complaints than both financial and family problems. It would seem that our culture’s obsession with getting to the top, putting in a hard day’s work, and giving it all you’ve got (literally) are getting out of hand. A stressful job may not even be worth the (expensive) health insurance if it’s slowly killing you. If the war is between quality of life and wallet size, which are you really aiming for? What are you going to do about it?
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RatRaceEscapeArtist February 14, 2008 at 4:19 am
You make a lot of valid points here Mike. Something I’d like to add to the list is how much easier it is when you are finally able to get away from the often negative effects of extreme office politics. For me, this weight off my brain has had a pretty noticeable effect since I escaped the rat race…
Good luck with your studies and with turning it all into an earner!
Sarah February 14, 2008 at 9:36 am
I agree. I left an unfulfilling career due to the following things:
1. Unrelenting idiopathic pain in various parts of my body. (Idiopathic means nobody can diagnose it and treat it; “without a cause”.)
2. A branched vein occlusion in my eye. Normally, this occurs in elderly people with diabetes or high blood pressure. I am in my twenties and have neither.
3. Suicidal depression.
As soon as I left my unfulfilling career, these things cleared up (well, the BVO didn’t, as it’s an isolated event with permanent retinal damage) AND my blood pressure went from 140/90 to 110/70 within about a month. I also lost 15 pounds without dieting or changing my habits in any way. If anything, I was less active than before.
I still work in an office environment but my level of responsibility is much lower and my coworkers are pretty chill.
I can’t wait to see what my health will be like when I get my dream career on track!
Scott Jackson February 14, 2008 at 5:46 pm
It’s good your health is ok because you probably don’t have health insurance right now.
I haven’t had any problems with my back. I do this thing called exercise. More specifically, squats. Really gets your back in shape.
Mike February 15, 2008 at 9:22 pm
This list could definitely go on almost forever! And Sarah, I’m glad you are heading into a better place – hope that your new ventures take off and prosper!
Health insurance is a problem, but as I’ve found out, you can get it through the state without a job… though it isn’t always easy.