Amazon has come under justifiably harsh criticism for the working conditions that employees at its warehouses and fulfilment centres in the US have had to deal with in recent years. Added to this is the company’s continued moves to stop any form of unionising by its workers. Instead of listening to and assisting employees with regards to working conditions, Amazon has announced a new tone deaf initiative called WorkingWell.
This new program focuses on physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating to help workers reduce the risk of injury in warehouses.
Precisely when workers will find the time for all these activities is one thing, but the fact that the company thinks that new wellness-focused initiatives like AmaZen, which are interactive kiosks where workers can watch short videos on guided meditations and positive affirmations, is more than a little concerning.
There is also an app that workers can download, but once again, given that the main screen workers will be staring at throughout the day will be related to warehouse tasks, finding time to use the WorkingWell app seems nigh impossible.
“Amazon takes our safety very seriously, and my managers have made it clear to me it’s more important than anything, even productivity and quality,” noted Jeffrey Ku, operations employee at an Amazon fulfillment centre. “WorkingWell is an extension of that—it makes sure we’re taking care of our minds and bodies. It encourages us to make positive changes to how we work, and since I started watching the program’s health and safety videos, I’ve incorporated a stretching routine into my day,” he adds.
While we do not know how the majority of warehouse workers feel about this new initiative, a report last year by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that employees at automated facilities have a 50 percent higher rate of injury compared to other warehouses. This as they are required to scan 400 products every hour compared to 100 at other facilities.
It therefore begs the question as to why those kinds of working conditions have not been factored into the newly announced WorkingWell program.
“WorkingWell was developed by employees who care deeply about their co-workers and are dedicated to promoting workplace health and safety. The WorkingWell team will continue to elicit feedback and ideas from employees, and use the science of safety to solve problems and establish new industry best practices in its relentless pursuit to support employees and keep them healthy and safe every day,” a press release regarding the announcement explains.
If Amazon is indeed concerned for the health and safety of its employees, meditation should be further down the list of items it needs to address.