We at DFC strive to make the office of the future a place of work-life balance, where your job can be ported to any location you find comfortable to work from, and there are no soul-destroying commutes or harsh fluorescent lighting to battle! Researchers have recently added fuel to that fire, by sourcing the worst office-related physical complaints from UK workers and distilling them all into a life-sized mannequin. Dubbed “Emma,” the mannequin purports to show what a typical office worker could evolve to in twenty years. And, the future is not bright.
“The doll has a permanently bent back caused by sitting for hours in a bad position, varicose veins from poor blood flow, a rotund stomach caused by a sedentary position, dry and red eyes from long hours staring at a computer screen and other health conditions. […]
William Higham, behavioural expert and author of the study, said: ‘The report shows that employers and workers really need to act now and address the problem of poor workplace health.
‘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 work station set up, our offices are going to make us very sick.’
(It’s worth noting that the study was commissioned by Fellowes, an office solutions company that sells products that it says will help you not turn into Emma.)
I do find Emma’s existence a bit fearmonger-y. Besides that, I also wonder if the researchers’ decision to make Emma female was conscious or not. Women are far more likely to be found in office “grunt” positions than men, like those of data entry specialists, administrative assistants, and financial clerks. They also are (STILL!) paid less than men, which means a comparable living standard requires more hours at work. And, when they do head home, women often find themselves responsible for a “second shift” of housework and emotional labour. All of which takes a physical toll much like Emma’s.
But Emma’s creators don’t seem to mention her context. Instead, problems like stress eczema and varicose veins are sited on a female body purely for — it seems to me — the shock value of how it negatively affects Emma’s appearance. The issue is complicated, but many studies underscore how female bodied persons are required to manage their appearance in the workplace. That this happens in ways that never even occur to their male co-workers, makes me wonder who was making decisions about Emma.
The warning about how are offices are hurting us is universal — but may be more universal for some of us.