Is this ailment-riddled model a glimpse into the future of office life?

Emma looks more like an overzealous zombie impersonator at a Halloween party than a middle-aged office worker from the year 2040, but according to a future of work report by Fellowes, this is what we could be heading for over the next few decades if we don't drastically change our unhealthy habits at work. 

A rotund stomach, varicose veins, red eyes, sallow skin, puffy limbs and a permanently hunched back are just some of the symptoms Emma the life-size predictive model is riddled with after decades of sitting slumped and sedentary staring at a computer all day.

Of course, Emma isn't real. Nor is she a realistic representation of what we're all going to look like in 2040. Rather, she's an amalgamation of all the ailments reported by 3,003 office workers across France, Germany and the UK who were surveyed by global office company (and our partner) Fellowes.

Here are just some of the findings highlighted by the researchers:

  • One-third of UK employees do not leave their workplace once they've arrived for the day.
  • Nine in ten British office workers say they experience poor health due to their work environment, and find their job more difficult as a result.
  • Half experience eyestrain, have sore backs (49%) and headaches (48%) at work.
  • Seven in 10 workers use medication to manage their symptoms.
  • Over 25% of employees have asked for their workstations to be improved and are still waiting for a resolution.

Commenting on the project, Ian Fletcher-Price, Posturite's founder and CEO, said: "Emma is an extreme example of what might happen to a very unfortunate person after twenty years of slumping immobile and eating badly in an office. However, she certainly isn't your typical office worker, and with health-conscious Generation Z now entering the UK workforce, I expect and hope to see great improvements in office worker health over the next few decades."

Emma has been created to press home the fact that unhealthy habits can affect our bodies visually. Being able to see these ailments on one eerily realistic life-sized body is a shock. And while it is an extreme representation, the risks are unfortunately real and experienced by office workers every day.

Within the report German occupational and public health expert Dr Frank Emrich commented: “The most common health problems in the office today are physical inactivity and asymmetric physical strain, especially around phone calling or typing. These can all lead to degenerative processes impacting muscles, joints, discs, nerves and tendons, and may cause pain and tissue damage. Lack of motion can lead to muscle degeneration. Overdoing motions, such as mouse-clicking, can cause inflammation and nerve compression.”

Fortunately, these risks can be managed with a few simple changes to equipment, behaviours and attitudes.

Ian added: “Our outlook for offices twenty years from now is positive - we're seeing a real shift in our clients' attitudes to workplace health and wellbeing with the introduction of agile working, sit-stand desks and other exciting health initiatives. We believe it's a business’ culture and employee attitudes that make the positive and lasting difference, so let’s leave Emma well behind us and look forward to a healthy, active, productive future.”

For more information about how to stay fit and healthy at work, please visit our Active Working page.