In Brief

The neck pain, shoulder strain and backaches so common to desk-bound office workers aren't caused by poor posture and broken-down desk chairs alone, says a recent report in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 92, No. 5, pages 1,456-1,466). Workplace stress may also play a role, found psychologist Christine A. Sprigg, of the University of Sheffield in England.

Sprigg and her colleagues distributed questionnaires that measured workload, job-related depression and anxiety, and incidence of musculoskeletal disorders to 936 employees from 22 call centers across the United Kingdom. They found that 45 percent of participants reported upper-body pain and 34 percent complained of lower-back problems--and that these employees were also the ones who reported the most job strain.

Both the mental and physical stress may be caused by a common factor--such as an inability to take short breaks and step away from the desk.

Employers in these workplaces need to find other ways to relieve employees' stress, such as stress management training, encouraging exercise and healthy eating and even allowing call handlers to stand up and walk around their chairs while on the phone with their headsets, Sprigg asserts.

In fact, we all need to be more aware of the price of long hours spent crouched over our computers, she adds.

"There are huge costs for both organizations and employees."

--L. Meyers