Career

Meet 'Emma' - we will look like her too if we don't change the way we work in the office now

Do you have an "Emma" in your office?

A workplace solutions company has created a life-size doll that represents what office workers will look like in 20 years' time if we don't change the way we work in the office now - and she makes for a frightening figure.
"Emma" has been created by Fellowes Brands, a global company which provides workplace, home, and mobile technology solutions, and her physique is based on the findings of a survey of 3000 office workers from France, Germany and the UK.
Emma is permanently hunched due to sitting for hours in a poor position, she has varicose veins due to poor blood flow, her eyes are bloodshot thanks to staring at a screen for hours on end every day, she is cuddly through the middle thanks to weight gain caused by a sedentary lifestyle and she has puffy ankles and wrists, sallow skin and stress-related eczema - all related to office life.
Of course, this is not the first time the negative impact on our health of sitting for long periods of time at work has been highlighted. Earlier this year the Southern Cross launched a national Lunch Well day after being horrified to learn that half of its staff sit still for seven hours a day and only half take a lunch break.
But there's something very sobering about seeing a life-sized representation of a 'work colleague of the future', who doesn't look too dissimilar to some of the colleagues you may work with already.
A Fellowes Brands representative explains the thinking behind "Emma" in the video, above: "In Britain we spend eight years of our entire lives sitting down and that's having huge problems on our health. Unless we do something about it it's going to change our entire appearance."
He claims that employers and employees are equally responsible for doing something about it.
"We need to spend less time staring into screens," he says.
He recommends taking more regular breaks and getting up more and walking round - the average office worker in the UK spends six hours a day sitting still.
Employers "can do a lot more" too, he adds. "Design buildings so there are more spaces for people to take breaks, provide different types of desks and work stations, encourage more walk-and-talk meetings."
Meet "Emma" - the work colleague of the future
The survey report explains that "recent workplace trends such as increased time and workload pressures, open-plan layouts and too much screen time" are all negatively impacting workers' health.
But the amount of time we spend sitting still is the most "dangerous" of all the trends.
The report states: "We're regularly spending hours at our desks with little movement, and our bodies are starting to atrophy in response. It's accelerating not just musculoskeletal disorders and weaker limbs, but blood clots, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
"Our workstations and offices create other problems too, from poor posture to strain from repetitive movements.
"Our screen-filled, strip-lit, air-conditioned environments exacerbated by 'sick building syndrome', are contributing to growing rates of migraines, blurred vision and virus infections.
"Broader work and lifestyle issues, like increasing working hours and long commutes, mean more sitting and meals 'on the go', which in turn means higher blood pressure, weight gain, and back and stomach pain.
"All the above will impact our mental health too - from anxiety and depression to 'infobesity' (data overload) and memory loss."
The report continues, "Two of the biggest lifestyle issues mix physical and mental issues - a rise in sleep deprivation and the growth of remote working, driving a subsequent rise in non-ergonomic computer use."
While technology has enabled us to do more in less time, creating greater efficiencies across the workplace, it has also deemed us more sedentary than ever before, and in turn at greater risk in the office than ever before.
The report explains, "In the 1990s, office workers might have made dozens of trips a day to filing cabinets or to take documents around the building. But today's computers make this activity a thing of the past. Those jobs can now be done by moving little more than an index finger on a mouse. Tomorrow, even that finger will seem excessive - we're likely to achieve the same with a flicker of the eyes across a screen. Or with our voices, as voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa grow in popularity."
The report highlighted that:
• Nine in 10 British office workers are suffering from poor health due to their work environment, and as a result, find their job more difficult
• Office workers are already suffering from strained eyes (50 per cent), sore backs (49 per cent) and headaches (48 per cent) as a direct result of their workspace
• Seven in 10 workers are resorting to medication to manage these issues
While some companies are proactive in supporting their employees' health, providing alternative work stations and wellness initiatives, the survey found that some are not doing enough to prevent workplace health issues – more than 25 per cent of employees in the survey had asked for their workstations to be improved and were still waiting for a resolution.