For the past two years, I’ve been trying to earn a living as a freelance writer and editor. Sometimes it works, sometimes I run into lean times. Right now it’s lean. So this week, in an attempt to keep the lights on, I’ve stepped out of my house and into a real office. I’m working a temp job for the next three weeks, so my days are full of commuting, filing and data entry, with not much time for blogging.
The job’s not so bad – it’s a little boring, but the computer terminal I’m sitting at faces a wall of windows, and when I look up from the computer it’s like I’m sitting in a forest of glorious fall foliage. The weather is gorgeous, and there’s a little picnic table outside where I can eat my lunch…and think about women, work, and occupational health.
At this particular job, the feminization of office work is as clear as day. All the temps and all the supervisors are women. As far as I can tell, most of what the permanent folks do is file and do data entry.
It makes me wonder, do women have a higher rate of carpal tunnel syndrome? What kinds of occupational health hazards are common for women who work in offices? What kinds of health problems are caused by sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day? How much radiation does a computer emit? Is it dangerous? What is the data?
This office is miles away from any real restaurant. There’s not even a vending machine. If you forget your lunch, you can drive to Bojangles or Arby’s if you drive really fast and eat your lunch in the car. There are, however, copious bowls full of Halloween candy on the filing cabinets. When I studied abroad in Iceland, one of the most incredible things about their work life was that all office buildings have beautiful cafeterias, and everyone eats together. In the US it seems like working in an office is set up to make you have bad nutrition.
I’m lucky (for now) that this is just a temporary gig, which means I actually enjoy it. It’s a whole lot easier than writing and a whole lot easier than chasing a three-year-old around, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day.
What about you? Do you work in an office? What kinds of things do you find are good – and bad—for your health at work? What do you think are some occupational health issues that women face more commonly than men? What about other jobs? Seems like service industry jobs and healthcare industry jobs probably come with their own set of occupational hazards.
What do you think?