Don’t be an Emma

The future for office workers is ugly: hunch-backed, sallow-skinned, with swollen sinuses, puffy eyes and varicose veins. The results, researchers say, of sitting down for eight hours a day. Yet we’re only just seeing the emergence of occupational healthcare designed to prevent poor health in the service economy. Is this a huge gap in the market?

‘Emma, Your Work Colleague of the Future’ is a life-sized representation of how we all could look in 20 years if we, our colleagues and our staff, don’t improve how we interact with our work environment. She’s built by workplace solutions company Fellows alongside behavioural experts,alongside a workplace survey, which found that 90% of UK office workers experience bad health because of how they work. See here how she looks.

Occupational healthcare as a sector has been historically designed to prevent bad health in industrial environments but economies, especially in the West, are shifting towards services. In Germany, for instance, the service sector accounts for 61% of GDP compared to 56% in 1991 (World Bank data). France has gone from 62% to 70%. And Sweden from 57% to 65%.

We’re seeing very few providers catering to the preventive healthcare needs of the growing office population. That’s largely because their revenues stem from employers who are rarely willing to spend more than what is mandatory and the law is still geared towards industry.

A few markets have wide corporate payor markets – notably Finland, Poland and Romania – where large groups like Terveystalo and Medicover find it relatively easy to upsell beyond what’s mandatory into solutions designed to prevent absenteeism including telehealth and preventive care. As employers are starting to feel more responsibility for the healthcare needs of their staff, this presents a wealth of opportunities in a growing payor market.

Employers should be convinced to pay for wider wellbeing, psychosocial, preventive, ergonomics, productivity if there’s demonstrable evidence that it keeps staff working harder for longer.

There is yet no pan-European player who is the go-to for these individually for corporates… let alone collectively. If an entrepreneur could create a services package that provides for all these needs then we think that they could be quids in. Even better if there’s a verticalisation opportunity to cross-sell wider healthcare packages with a co-payment between employee and employer.

Nobody wants a team of Emmas working for them but it might be that way if nobody steps in to fill the gap.


We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Rachel Lewis or call 0207 183 3779.