How to avoid becoming ‘Emma’ – the disturbing “colleague of the future”

The damage that modern desk jobs and sedentary lifestyles are doing to the human body have been brought to life by scientists who have predicted what office workers could look like in as little as 20 years’ time.

A report into workplace health entitled ‘The Work Colleague of the Future’ has made a number of predictions about the way the average office worker could evolve in just two decades.

As part of the report, written by William Higham, a consumer trends futurist, a life-size model was created to illustrate how prolonged sitting in poor posture at work may affect our posture and physical health.

The model – named ‘Emma’ – suffers from enlarged eyes and an over-developed arm. She has a hunched back, a protruding stomach, varicose veins and weakened leg muscles, all caused by a combination of long hours sitting at a desk, using a computer, and poor ergonomic desk setup.

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The model was designed to scare people into action – and it’s certainly scary. In fact, it looks like part of a window display in a Halloween shop.

William Higham said: “Unless we make radical changes to our working lives, such as moving more, addressing our posture at our desks, taking regular walking breaks or considering improving our workstation set up, our offices are going to make us very sick.”

Who is the report aimed at?

The findings of the report are aimed at both employers and employees: if you’re an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff and need to ensure that working practices are not causing long term damage to staff. In addition, as the author notes, employees who are healthy, happy and comfortable are also almost always more productive.

However, there are important messages for employees, too, who should find ways to be more active in their spare time if their job requires them to spend a lot of time sitting or standing in the same position.

Roughly 50 per cent of all the British workers questioned as part of the study said they had eye problems because of work, and 49 per cent had bad backs.

So, what action do you need to take if we are to avoid evolving in this way? Find out more in part two of this blog, coming soon.