It’s no secret that today’s workplaces are changing. Open floor plans, remote work, and virtual meetings are all part of the modern office experience. Whether people are working from coffee shops, in a cubicle, or from a posh office lounge, comfortable seating options are paramount. And to illustrate just how important healthy workstations are, British office equipment company Fellowes has commissioned a lifelike, full-size model named “Emma,” whose myriad ailments show the dark side of where we’re headed if work comforts continue to go unchecked.
The realistic, seemingly middle-aged woman was designed in partnership with behavioral futurist William Higham, who worked with a team of health experts to unpack survey data collected across France, Germany, and the United Kingdom submitted by more than 3,000 office workers. The study, called The Work Colleague of the Future, revealed that 9 out of 10 British office workers credit their poor health to their work environment, claiming that the six hours spent at a desk daily contribute to strained eyes, back soreness, and headaches. Emma is a manifestation of these symptoms.
Her poor posture is a reminder that spending all day hunched over a computer screen is not good for the spine. Her round stomach points to a lack of exercise. And her skin is red, thanks to stress-induced eczema. Higham, who led the workplace report, told the Independent: “Unless we make radical changes to our working lives, such as moving more, addressing our posture at our desks, taking regular walking breaks, or considering improving our workstation set up, our offices are going to make us very sick.”
Emma’s dry, red eyes are an obvious response to too much screen time, and the varicose veins in her legs are from poor circulation, as are the swollen limbs and sinuses. To put it simply, Emma is a cautionary tale, designed to show us the reality of how our work habits will affect our bodies in the next 20 years if we’re not careful.
Of course, the doll was not designed out of altruism. Fellowes benefits if it can shock companies into buying more comfortable desks and workstations for their employees. But Fellowes has some solid science on its side. Prolonged sitting has been linked to a range of health problems. So, yes, Emma is creepy—but long-term musculoskeletal issues are even scarier.