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Ear to the Ground

Is Amazon Causing Psychiatric Illness in Workers?

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Posted on Nov 25, 2013
außerirdische sind gesund (CC BY 2.0)

A BBC investigation into a U.K. Amazon warehouse found conditions a stress expert said could cause “mental and physical illness.”

As the company employs 15,000 extra staffers during the Christmas season, the BBC placed an undercover reporter in the factory. A professor who specializes in stress in the workplace was then shown clips that the reporter had secretly videotaped of work performed on a night shift, including 11 miles of walking and the collection of orders every 33 seconds.

The reporter worked as a “picker,” collecting orders from 800,000 square feet of storage. A handset told him what to collect on his trolley, counting down as it allotted him a number of seconds to complete the tasks. The scanner beeped if he made a mistake.

“We are machines, we are robots, we plug our scanner in, we’re holding it, but we might as well be plugging it into ourselves,” he said.

“We don’t think for ourselves, maybe they don’t trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don’t know.”

The scanner evaluated the worker’s performance and sent the results to his managers. If it was below par, he was told he could be disciplined.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

BBC:

Prof Marmot, one of Britain’s leading experts on stress at work, said the working conditions at the warehouse are “all the bad stuff at once”.

He said: “The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.”

“There are always going to be menial jobs, but we can make them better or worse. And it seems to me the demands of efficiency at the cost of individual’s health and wellbeing - it’s got to be balanced.”

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