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For a healthy mind, body and business

The future of working from home: why ‘Anna’ is an unlikely reality

working from home fit and healthy

When it comes to the future of working from home, the debate is polarised. You rarely come across a balanced argument. Working from home is either doomed and denigrated or we are told none of us will ever return to the office (RTO).

There is a lot of binary language out there. None more so than in this article, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph, proclaiming working from home as a failure and dubbing those in favour as ‘fanatics’. I wrote my response to this on LinkedIn and it generated a fair few comments as well. You can find the post here.

It is worth knowing that The Daily Telegraph has been owned by the Barclay brothers (Frederick and his late brother, David), who have interests in commercial property.

A quick google search of work from home articles in The Telegraph includes headlines such as:

“How the great home working experiment fell apart”, and, “How Gen Z are proudly shirking from home – and taking the economy down with them”, or how Google is “finally” forcing people back to the office.

As with all such reporting, you need to get curious about any possible agenda behind them.

A familiar prediction

In the same week, a prediction was made about the future of working from home. It came in the shape of ‘Anna’, a “grotesque” 3D model, created by an office furniture company, warning us of the dangers of working from home.

In an article in The Daily Mail, Furniture at Work say: “Anna displays many physical effects because of consistent use of technology, screen exposure and poor posture, as well as highlighting potential mental health issues.”

Anna is overweight, a hunch back, has a claw hand from using a mouse, and swollen eyes from staring at a screen.

But, sadly, Anna is not new.

In 2020, a different firm created an avatar dubbed ‘Susan’, an image of a woman that they predicted would be the future of those working from home. Another woman model, another image designed to scare us back into the office? You can see her image and more about her here.

I see no reason why many of the highlighted issues of working from home are not also present in the office environment. In fact, in 2019, it was The Daily Mail again reporting on the life size model, ‘Emma’ that scientists created to show what an office worker might look like in 20 years time.

All three predictions depict women. Are men immune to the sedentary office lifestyle?

future of work prediction, life size model of Emma
Emma, the lifesize model of the future of an office worker by supplier of worplace products, Fellowes in 2019.

Historic parallels

Amidst all of these horror predictions of the future of working from home, another speech recently caught my attention. It was the commencement speech at Smith College by Reshma Saujani. She was talking about imposter syndrome, explaining it as a relatively recent construct designed to keep women in their place, to make them feel inadequate or not up to the task.

She described it as a modern day ‘bicycle face’.

Victorian woman riding a bicycle  in an era when it was discouraged, with similar parallels to what we see now with scare predictions on the future of working from home.
Creative Commons, Wikipedia

Bicycle face was a condition made up in the Victorian era to discourage women from cycling, primarily because men started to see it as a threat to the status quo. If women could ride, they had freedom and independence. It might start giving them more confidence to try new things and potentially rock the boat.

The symptoms of bicycle face were described in The Literary Digest of 1895 as “usually flushed, but sometimes pale, often with lips more or less drawn, and the beginning of dark shadows under the eyes, and always with an expression of weariness.”

There was also an idea that it could make women look more masculine and therefore less attractive.

Other articles described ‘bulging eyes’ and a ‘hard clenched jaw’ and even warned of the sexual nature of a woman astride a saddle. In 1897, Lectures of the female gynaecologist were among medical journals warning that bicycle riding could damage a woman’s reproductive organs and possibly awaken sexual feelings.

medical paper on the danger of women riding bicycles.
М. М. Волкова, M. M. Volkova (gynaecologist), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The scare predictions of the future of working from home

As I began to understand the motivations behind ‘bicycle face’, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels with the modern images of future homeworkers.

The images and descriptions all pertain to women. They are designed to shock and scare in some way. The recent agenda seems either to get us to buy their office products, or to make us run back to the office. (Furniture At Work seem to have since removed their post about ‘Anna’.)

In Victorian times, the images and descriptions were designed to prevent women having more freedom and independence. Arguably, working from home offers workers (especially many women) more freedom, autonomy and flexibility.

What these pictures have done is angered a lot of people. Twitter and Linkedin comments are rife with ridicule and complaints. The images of these future homeworkers are insulting, degrading, and enforce a gender divide.

Why ‘Anna’ is an unlikely reality: how to stay healthy when working from home

On a positive note, these predictions about the future of working from home are mostly sensational scare stories.

We know there are many reasons why working from home gives us the opportunity to be healthier and happier.

Here are just a few ways that you can be healthy when working from home:

Ensure you add movement into your day

  • Add movement breaks at the same time as a screen break. Take a screen break at least every half hour, even if just for a minute, to help reduce the risk of eye strain. You can use this pause to do some stretches or some ‘exercise snacking.’ This is where you might fit in a few squats, pushups, or any form of fitness into a quick break, for instance, while waiting for the kettle to boil or a document to print.
  • Take walking meetings. This can happen virtually or on the phone but if you have any fellow team members living locally, arrange to meet up in person and take a walk at the same time as having that talk.
  • Use the normal office commute time for a workout, a run or walk outside.

Create your productive workspace

  • Establish a dedicated workspace at home. A separate room, or garden pod is ideal. However, it doesn’t have to be your own office, it could be a repurposed space on a landing or hallway, or an alcove in another room. 
  • Invest in a supportive and adjustable chair.
  • Adjust your set up to be as ergonomic as possible. Minor adjustments and inexpensive items such as a laptop stand or a footrest can make all the difference to your comfort and wellbeing.
  • Check to see if your employer offers remote work setup assessments. Liaise with them about any provisions you might need.

Be proactive about socialising

  • Whether with work colleagues or friends, arrange for weekly catch ups and in-person meetings from time to time.
  • Working from home also means working from anywhere so remind yourself to leave the house sometimes. A few hours in a different environment with other people can help you feel less isolated.
  • If work meetings aren’t in person, try to arrange work socials so you still meet up with your team or colleagues. It can help nurture those more personal relationships and build trust within a team.

Make the most of your kitchen

  • No vending machines but control over your own fridge means you can create healthy lunches and snacks.
  • Be adventurous. With more time to prep and opportunity for a proper lunch break, you can make appetising meals that you might otherwise not have time for.

Make sure to check out the range of articles and expert interviews inside The Homeworker magazine.

Each quarterly digital issue is available on subscription and includes the full library of back issues.

You can also find many of the articles inside our annual print editions which serve as complete guides to working productively and healthily from home.

Check out the print editions of The Homeworker magazine

About the author

Louise is an award-winning journalist and speaker who focuses on working from home, remote work and wellbeing. She is the founder of  The Homeworker, which is dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home. The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, fulfilled, and more productive in work and life.

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