Amazon’s launch of booths in its warehouses for workers to watch mindfulness videos, likened by some as “coffin-like” and “dystopian”, has been slammed in light of the reported working conditions in these facilities.
The tech giant recently launched WorkingWell, a “new comprehensive program providing employees with physical and mental activities, wellness exercises and healthy eating support that are scientifically proven to help them recharge and re-energise”, Forbes reported.
This is part of a wider initiative with $US300 million in funding aiming to offer safety projects for Amazon workers this year.
The program includes the AmaZen, an “interactive kiosk” which “guides employees through mindfulness practices” placed within Amazon warehouses.
Workers in these warehouses are being encouraged to enter these kiosks and watch short videos with “easy-to-follow wellbeing activities”, such as guided meditations, positive affirmations and calming scenes with sounds.
An Amazon Twitter account recently posted a video featuring one of these booths, revealing them to be a tiny pod in the middle of an Amazon warehouse, with room for a chair, small computer and a handful of small potted plants, with the top panel painted to resemble the sky.
These “wellness chambers” have been quickly slammed by commentators and social media users, who were quick to point to the often-criticised working conditions within Amazon warehouses and fulfilment centres, with tough quotas, injuries, long hours and anti-union practices.
The Amazon press release said the new initiatives are part of an effort to reduce injuries in the workplace.
“About 40 per cent of work-related injuries at Amazon are musculoskeletal disorders, which include sprains or strains caused by repetitive motions,” Amazon said.
“Pilots of the WorkingWell program have reduced these injuries.”
Others also questioned Amazon’s encouragement for its employees to visit these wellness booths when the length of breaks given to workers is often a key concern raised by them, with some reportedly being unable to even make it to the bathroom.
Amazon workers recently protested against these working conditions, calling for extra breaks.
At the time, workers reported receiving two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break.
Vice labelled the new Amazon wellness program as “dystopian”.
“In one of its most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny booths where its overworked warehouse employees can momentarily escape a job so gruelling, many employees say they don’t feel like they have enough time to even use the bathroom,” Vice said.
“What this looks like in reality is a coffin-sized booth in the middle of an Amazon warehouse where workers can use a computer to view ‘mental health and mindful practices’.”
The press release said Amazon employee Leila Brown came up with the idea for the booths.
“With AmaZen I wanted to create a space that’s quiet, that people could go and focus on their mental and emotional wellbeing,” Brown said.
“The ZenBooth is an interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery.”
New York Magazine took a different tact to the “dystopian” criticisms, saying this is the reality of the world we live in now.
“A person who looks at the booth and says, ‘this is so Black Mirror’ really means to say that they are frightened,” the article said.
“Something has gone terribly wrong, in a way that can feel final. It can be difficult to admit that this is simply how we live now.”