Normally, working at a computer isn't considered as harmful as working on a toxic plant, poisonous factory or somewhere similar, though some (most?) people seem to enjoy it. However, it doesn't mean that building the Web doesn't negatively affect your health.
Where does it hit you?
As a matter of fact, everything's pretty simple. Web building people (web designers, web developers, SEOs, Internet marketers, usability professionals, accessibility folks and others) spend at least 8 hours a day, building the Web. While doing so, they:
- lose physique by moving as little as possible (does moving a mouse and typing count at all as moving?)
- lose flexibility by spending almost the entire day in one posture (even if there are varios ways of sitting)
- strain their eyes by staring at the screens with small fonts, bizarre graphics, looking for info
- lose the touch on the real life (because they spend 8 hours a day in one spot, not even outside - ok, most of them, not everyone)
- sometimes overwork, have to travel a lot (Mike Grehan, Rand, anyone?), work irregular hours and so on
- abuse their eating habits (by eating fast, pre-maid food) or even missing meals for work
All this combined makes a pretty nasty picture for a person, who wants to stay healthy for more than 20 work years. Now, if someone has other had habits, such as smoking, drinking and such, the condition becomes even more sewere. But what can you do about it?
Get to action
Of course, one of the choices would be to get another job, in the open air. But for 99.999% of us, that's not the choice, because we may be experts in SEO, but not in outside jobs, not to mention that some may have some careers in store for them online. So, what to do?
Naturally, you need to do something about it, such as:
- take breaks, often. Not just to play online games, but to stretch, take a walk, do some eye-exercise to relax. Or even take a nap. Anything to break the prolonged monkey-typing position.
- walk more (or use a bicycle). Ignore lifts, cars for short distances. Take up any sport at least three times a week (just do it - you only need to start)
- Find a good monitor (and also an easy-to-use keyboard, mouse and a chair). Choose wisely *before* you buy it. Ignore the price tag.
- find ways to enjoy your work: speak politely, do everything you can for the customers, do only what you like to do
- expand your life (go outside, visit other towns, invite guests/go guesting, etc)
- try to eat human-made, organic food
In short, just do something to improve your life in your situation: you should be able to add a lot to the list (care to share in the comments?)
Why improve your life?
While some of us didn't pick the occupation we ended up at (who would have thought you'd have to learn everything from copywriting to accessibility to build/improve/promote a website?), it is generally a good idea to stay fit to be more productive.
By improving your life you will not only enjoy it more thoroughly, but will also be able to do work better, do more work and provide better customer care service.
The goal here is not to jump the gun and change everything at once, but to gradually improve your life. Taking it to the extremes won't help it (though longer vacation might). You only need to start thinking about it and to try find ways to get better.
Links on computer-related health issues:
(Yes, it is very original to scrape links from Google Top 10 for 'computer related health issues', but you can do better.)
What other dangers you think the Web building people should be aware of and how would you advise to improve the working/living conditions?