Amazon Welcomes Workers To 'Mental Health' Booths Of Mindfulness And Terror
When people — or companies — show you who they are, believe them.
For years, Amazon has been criticized for the way they treat their workers. Low pay (yes, they did up the salaries of their warehouse workers to $15 an hour — but did you know that is actually a very low wage for a warehouse job?), the constant surveillance, the notorious pee bottles, etc., etc., all coming to a head this year when hopes for unionization at the Bessemer, Alabama, plant were possibly thwarted not only by professional union busters, but also by a strategically placed mailbox the company basically forced the United States Postal Service to install so they could watch employees vote, and to which they may or may not have had a key.
But Amazon is hoping to change all of that. No, not by paying people more. Not by allowing workers to vote on a union without interference. Not by improving benefits or actually listening to workers about what would make things better for them. But by installing dystopian despair booths at their warehouses where employees can go to do "mindfulness exercises" — likely while being monitored, as they always are.
The booths are about the size of a phone booth or old timey police box, but they are not bigger on the inside. They are very small and windowless. But there's a painting of the sky on top of them, so ...
According to a press release, the AmaZen kiosk ...
"Guides employees through mindfulness practices in individual interactive kiosks at buildings. During shifts employees can visit AmaZen stations and watch short videos featuring easy-to-follow wellbeing activities, including guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds, and more. Employees like Katie Miller from an Amazon fulfillment center in Etna, OH, say the pilot program has been helpful. She shared, "Self-care is important, and AmaZen gives me an opportunity to take time for myself to just pause and regroup which helps me be better at work. When I take that time, I come back to work more focused, and it has a lasting effect on the rest of my day."
And what could possibly be more calming than a small, windowless confined space? I am only a medium amount of claustrophobic and there is just no damn way I would get in that thing. Just looking at it is giving me flashbacks to that episode of "Punky Brewster" where Cherie gets stuck in the refrigerator. Not to mention the fact that everyone can see you walk into it and will probably be going, "Oh guess who is losing their shit and needs to do some mindfulness exercises," and that would be literally all you could think of while in there, other than the possibility of the door getting stuck and you running out of air and then dying.
The original tweet featuring the video above was met with such horror on social media that the company deleted it after a day. But the booth is only part of Amazon's new, entirely unhelpful WorkingWell program that is supposed to help employees be mentally and physically healthy in a way that will cost the company as little as possible.
These include such innovations as "health and safety huddles" and "wellness zones."
Health & Safety Huddles: Daily opportunities to engage employees on strong body mechanics, wellness topics, and ongoing safety education. Operations leaders and small groups of socially distanced employees gather near work stations and watch short interactive videos on rotating topics created by health and safety professionals and injury prevention specialists. Topics rotate on a monthly basis and range from gripping and handling, pushing and pulling, nutrition, and more. In the last year during its pilot phase, Health & Safety Huddles contributed to reducing MSD-related injuries and received nearly 90 percent positive feedback from surveyed employees.
Wellness Zones: Provides employees with voluntary stretching and muscle recovery via easily accessible, dedicated spaces within Amazon's operations buildings. These areas incorporate interactive videos and written information to help employees proactively improve their health and wellness in areas like body mechanics, wellness topics like best practices in stretching, ongoing safety education, and more.
And signage in the break rooms telling employees which foods are healthy.
EatWell: Developed to support the overall nutritional health and wellbeing of employees by promoting healthy eating and increasing the availability of healthier options. In onsite breakrooms, signage is displayed to highlight healthy choices such as fruit, granola bars, and vegetable snack packs. Through this program, the company has also increased the selection of healthier options available to employees in site breakrooms. In its initial pilot, EatWell has increased awareness of healthy eating by 60 percent and has helped over 50 percent of surveyed employees make healthier choices.
But truly — is "awareness" something that can be measured?
The program does also include actual health care centers, which is at least a thing that actually helps people. As far as we know. Given that it's Amazon, perhaps we'd better wait and see.
Offers Amazon employees and their families quality, convenient, and affordable healthcare within 10 miles of where they work and live. In partnership with Crossover Health, these Centers provide access to comprehensive primary care services to help members be well and stay well. With a focus on acute, chronic, and preventive primary care health needs, a wide range of services are offered at these Centers. Examples include prescription medication services, vaccinations, mental health, physical therapy, health coaching for conditions like diabetes and hypertension, and care navigation to specialty referral services, as well as same-day pediatric services. Since the initial rollout of 17 sites across five cities in the U.S., patients have reported over 90 percent satisfaction, and over 85 percent of Amazon employees consider Neighborhood Health Centers their single place for healthcare.
It's cute that they're "trying," but perhaps they could start instead with not requiring employees to pull 10 and a 1/2 hour overnight shifts, allowing them bathroom breaks so they don't have to pee in bottles, giving them breaks longer than 30 minutes when it takes them that long to walk to and from the break room, and not paying drivers less than minimum wage. Those things are certainly more helpful to workers than shoving them into a claustrophobic broom closet of doom where they can do "mindfulness exercises" as their supervisors watch the clock.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse