Are bloggers the new occupational risk group?

April 9th, 2008 by Julie Ferguson

If you have bloggers on the payroll, both you and they may be at risk for work injuries – or even death! At least that’s the word according to a recent article by Matt Richtel in the New York Times, In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop. Richtel describes a growing work force of sedentary workers who toil around the clock under great competitive stress to cover the latest news, “a digital-era sweatshop.” While many bloggers are either non-paid or self employed, many are employees or contractors. Some work on a piece-work basis paid by the post and others depend on pay-per-click advertising.
The article cites the examples of two prominent bloggers who recently died of heart attacks, noting that while the deaths cannot be definitively linked to blogging, certain aspects of the blogger lifestyle can lead to weight gain, inactivity, poor nutrition, and sleep disorders. Plus, many suffer stress and blogger burnout.
Of course, the story has been buzzing through the blogosphere to mixed reactions. There is no shortage of bloggers having fun with the story (Five Brooklyn Bloggers Die Over the Weekend, Latest Victims of New, High-Tech Disease; The NYT Covers Blogging) – bloggers can be a very snarky and cynical group. But while many fault the story for being a bit on the dramatic side, it raises some good points that employers should consider: sedentary workers have unique health risks. Of course, this isn’t limited to bloggers – it also includes IT workers, telemarketers, assemblers, managers, typists, receptionists, office workers – just to name but a few. Sedentary work environments can contribute to obesity, diabetes, circulatory problems, deep-vein thrombosis, musculoskeletal disorders, and other health problems.
While we haven’t seen any workers comp claims for blogging yet, employers need to keep an eye out for sedentary workers, particularly any home-based teleworkers, to ensure that health risks are mitigated and that workers comply with health and safety standards. Set an expectation that work be punctuated with periodic breaks for activity or exercises and ensure that workstations have good ergonomic design. Blogger LifeDev shares some other pointers for keeping web workers healthy.
And as for us hard working bloggers at Workers Comp Insider, we offer assurances that we are not pulling all nighters to update the blog or struggling to feed our families on a click-by-click basis. But after this article, I am wondering if our readers’ insatiable demand for the latest workers comp news might have something to do with my recent 10 pound weight gain.