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Office workers beware of “Emma” — a glimpse into an unhealthy future

Office workers risk developing a bevy of physical and mental health issues over the next 20 years if workplace conditions do not change, a study has found.

Research commissioned by the office supplies company Fellowes found that workers suffer from workplace health issues such as strained eyes, sore backs, and headaches.

The research, which analysed 3,003 people in France, Germany and Britain in June 2019 through an online survey, found that over a third of British office workers spend between seven and nine hours a day sitting at a desk. 

To demonstrate the results of their research, the company created “Emma”, a model of what office workers could look like in the next 20 years.

“Emma” suffers from eye strain, varicose veins and stress-induced eczema, as well as paler skin from a lack of sunlight and weaker leg muscles from too much sitting. She has a swollen nose, more nose hair and longer eyelashes due to impurities in the office air. 

William Highman is a behavioural futurist who studies people’s evolving attitudes and influences to make predictions about human behaviour and who helped model “Emma”.

“Employers can do a lot more in the workplace,” he said in an interview released by Fellowes.

“The more we can do that isn’t purely sitting at a desk, the better.”

Highman advises that to avoid these issues, employees should avoid sitting down for so much of the day, taking more “walk and talk” meeting and more regular breaks, and should cut down on screen time and typing on a keyboard whenever possible. 

(Production: Pascale Antonie, Kathryn Carlson, Martin Esposito)

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