Meet Emma: The sallow-skinned, hunchbacked 'work colleague of the future'
In the future, you may not need to browse for horror movies to see a sallow-skinned, hunchbacked creature with bloodshot eyes shuffling around -- because according to a U.K. study, this could be tomorrow’s office worker.
Emma, the human doll made to show what workers could look like in 20 years if we don’t change our sedentary office habits, has short auburn hair, a weak smile and an aura of stagnant doom.
“We’ve created a representation of the work colleague of the future,” said William Higham.
Higham is a behavioural futurist who was commissioned by the company Fellowes to create a report on office health and then extrapolate the results into a human doll: Emma
A YouTube video posted by Fellowes shows the sped up process of Emma being sculpted and brought to life. The doll looks like an average person until you get closer and see the health issues she is dealing with.
In the video, Higham explains what has caused each of Emma’s visible struggles.
“Emma has a permanently bent back now because of the way she’s been sitting at her work station,” Higham said. “The muscles in her leg are much weaker, she has varicose veins because of (lack of) blood flow. Her eyes are redder, again, because of the quality of the air. She has more nose hair, more ear hair, she has a swollen nose. She’s much more stressed, so therefore we’ll see … stress related eczema on her arms. And also Emma has kind of sallow skin because she’s been in artificial light for seven years.”
She is meant to serve as an example for how both employers and employees need to change their behaviour.
Higham compiled survey data from office workers in the U.K., France and Germany as well as other articles and studies in order to identify “danger areas around the office,” and map what the actual impact on the human body could be long term.
“The biggest culprit is, increasingly, the chair. In Britain, we spend eight years of our entire lives sitting down,” he said. And that’s having huge problems on our health, and unless we do something about it, it’s going to change our entire appearance.”
The report that accompanies Emma speaks about these danger areas. Being inactive all shift is one of the biggest issues. The convenience of technology means that employees in offices don’t have to get up to retrieve supplies or to talk to each other the way they once did. The report says that in the U.K., 81 per cent of office workers spend 4 hours sitting without standing up, and 45 per cent spend over 6 hours. Higham suggested taking more breaks and walking around more, and proposed office cultures could change to include things such as “walk and talk meetings.”
But it’s not all down to individual behaviour. Working in an office with no windows and no fresh airflow can increase sickness and degrade mental health through poor air quality and a lack of sunshine.
Higham suggested that employers and companies can bear some of the burden and improve things “if they can design buildings so that there are actually more spaces for people to take breaks in, if there are different types of desks, different types of work stations.”
As these types of health problems come from the work environments and how we choose to behave within them, the goal is to stop these issues before they become irreversible.
“It’s too late for Emma,” Higham said. “A lot of the problems she has are permanent.”
The company that commissioned the report, Fellowes, provides office supplies, including office chairs.