Posted on: November 8, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Last updated: December 2, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Illinois-based office solutions company, Fellowes, just created the “work colleague of the future” and she’s… quite a sight.

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Fellowes collaborated with occupational health experts, and William Higham, a consumer futurist, and author who specializes in predicting business trends, to draft an extensive report of how the modern work environment is affecting office workers’ health.

To take their insights a step further, they brought the report to life (or just about).

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Meet Emma, a life-sized doll who models what a typical office worker could look like if we don’t do anything to correct ergonomics and unhealthy lifestyle choices at work.

Brace yourself.

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Emma: Your Future Work Colleague

Emma’s shocking features include: (1)

Permanently bent back: Caused by hours of sitting with a poor posture

Varicose veins: Caused by poor circulation, which in turn result from a sedentary lifestyle

Puffy stomach: Caused by an inactive lifestyle

Dry, red eyes: Prolonged screen time resulting in eye strain

Swollen wrists: Resulting from carpal tunnel syndrome

Pallid skin: Caused by extensive indoor time

Swollen sinuses: Caused by poor indoor air quality and dust

How Does Office Work Affect Your Health?

Will you end up looking like Emma? Find out how your job could be taking a toll on your health.

Poor Cardiovascular Health

One of the most significant health threats posed by office work comes from the inactivity. Sitting for prolonged periods of time has been linked to high blood pressure and low levels of HDL cholesterol. (2)

Inactivity can also negatively affect circulation. The longer you’re seated, the more your blood circulation slows, which is especially aggravated by the pressure your chair places on your thighs. (3) The result can range from pins and needles in your legs, swollen feet and ankles, and varicose veins. (3)

The trouble is, you can’t make up for hours of sitting by working out before or after work. Johns Hopkins cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S. explains, “More recent research shows that high levels of exercise can lessen some of the risk. Yet even for people with high levels of activity, there seems to be a threshold around 10 hours of sitting. Research shows that if you hit more than 10 hours, your cardiovascular risk really goes up.” (4)

Unfortunately, switching to a standing desk also isn’t necessarily better, because standing for long periods of time can cause back strain. It also still “counts” as inactivity. (5, 6)

Michos recommends, “Even if you have to be sitting in front of the computer all day, you can break up the time. You don’t have to replace sitting with time at the gym. There’s benefit to light activity during the day. For every 20 minutes of sitting, try to stand for eight minutes and move around for two minutes.” (4)

Type 2 Diabetes Risk

While the jury is still out on whether sitting for long periods of time can cause weight gain, there’s plenty of consensus in the scientific community that a sedentary lifestyle is linked to unhealthy blood sugar levels and a risk of diabetes. (7)

Couple that with all of the birthday cake and holiday office parties, and work can be a recipe for disaster.

Eye Strain

Computer vision syndrome is a range of health problems that can be caused by prolonged screen time. Recent research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 people who work with computers have symptoms of computer vision syndrome. (8)

Blurred vision, double vision, headaches, neck pain, and irritated eyes are all common symptoms.

People who look at screens all day can strain the muscles in their eyes. They can also cause dryness and redness, as research shows that people blink less often when looking at screens. (8)

Back, Neck and Joint Pain

“Maintaining any position for too long can impact health. Maintaining a poor one is worse,” writes Fellowes. (9)

Back pain is one of the most common workplace injuries, even in office jobs. (10) Sitting for long periods of time can be just as much of a health threat as lifting heavy objects. After about only twenty minutes, any position can become uncomfortable and puts pressure on the muscle groups that are engaged. (11)

For those who type regularly, wrist pain or a weakened grip from carpal tunnel syndrome is another common issue. (12)

Ergonomics for a Healthy Workplace

It’s tempting to roll your eyes at the ergonomics chapter of your workplace training programs, but being mindful about how you conduct your work can go a long way to improving your health.

This 6-minute video demonstrates how you can assess your workspace:

It’s also very important to take regular breaks from sitting and looking at a screen. Why not give these office-friendly exercises a try? Or, go for a brisk walk to de-stress and boost blood flow at the same time.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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Maria Sykes
Team Writer
Marie Sykes is an Ontario based writer with a background in research and a love for holistic wellness. She's especially interested in boosting awareness for women's health issues. Once a shunner of gyms, Marie has found an appreciation for weight training and HIIT circuits. She enjoys trying cuisine from all over the world, and she also enjoys not caring two cents what other people think her body should look like.

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