According to the ViewSonic @Work @Risk Report millions of workers are suffering from chronic poor ‘desk health’ as part of a wider sick office syndrome epidemic. The survey, which looked specifically at British office workers, reveals that there is a clear link between poor ergonomics knowledge and an increase in symptoms such as headaches, eye fatigue and backache.

The study reveals that 46% of office workers spend six or more hours in front of their computer screens a day and the majority (51%) of these are not scheduling appropriate breaks according to ergonomic guidelines.

Around three quarters of workers report suffering from headaches (67%), eye fatigue (77%) and backache (71%). The incidence of physical symptoms increases markedly in line with lack of ergo-awareness. Work-induced stress and anxiety is also an issue for 78% of office workers.

Although most office workers say that ergonomic issues are important to them (75%), only a fifth have ever complained to their manager and asked for a better desk, chair, phone or screen, despite the high incidence of health issues. Indeed, a third admit not knowing where to start improving their desktop environment. The lack of knowledge is compounded by low levels of personal initiative; only 15% have tried to investigate best desktop policy or sought professional help, or spoken to friends or colleagues for ergonomic advice.

Mel Taylor, Vice President, Director of European Marketing, ViewSonic said: "The research shows that not only are we a workforce plagued by chronic ill-health, but that we lack the will to change at both an individual and corporate level. Employers could eliminate these issues instantly for many staff by promoting better desktop ergonomics. Sadly, the issue is not on the board's agenda, despite the potential for huge productivity gains."

In response, ViewSonic has set up Monitor Victims to provide a range of self-help ergonomic tools and educational resources and call on employers and individuals to heed the warning signs.

Alarmingly, it is the youngest office workers that are most at risk.16-24-year-olds who work the longest screen hours are least likely to be scheduling appropriate breaks. They are one-and-a- half times more likely to suffer headaches (76%) than those aged over 55 (48%). Good equipment has an important part to play as well. Users of CRT monitors were found to be twice as likely to have frequent headaches than users of widescreen LCDs. Indeed, 42% of widescreen users say they never get a headache.

There may be trouble ahead for employers who do not promote good ergonomics practice; 55% of young employees (16-24-year-olds) report that excessive workloads or peer/management pressure prevents them from scheduling more frequent breaks and are consequently developing poor work habits. Almost half of workers (47%) say they've been offered no advice on the best desktop layout or ergonomics best practice in the last 12 months. More than two thirds (69%) say they would consider future legal action if they should develop a long-term illness or disability induced by their office environment.

Mel Taylor told us "not only are employers ignoring the clear productivity benefits of better IT equipment and ergonomics, they are also ignoring their duty of care responsibility and may be opening themselves up to serious legal liabilities in the future. We urge both employers and employees to change this casual attitude to ergonomics - companies can do a lot more to instil better working practices but armed with even a little more knowledge, employees can look after themselves a lot more effectively too."