Amazon.com Inc.’s warehouse working conditions paint the picture of “all the bad stuff at once,” said stress expert professor Michael Marmot after viewing an undercover BBC investigation.
BBC reporter Adam Littler, 23, got a job as a “picker” at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse in the United Kingdom and filmed his night shifts with a hidden camera.
According to the investigation, the night shifts include up to 11 miles of walking, and workers are expected to collect orders every 33 seconds in the 800,000 square foot warehouse. A mounted handset counts the seconds it takes for each worker to find a product and beeps when a mistake is made.
“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,” Littler said.
Littler’s performance was tracked and sent to his managers. He was told that if it was too low, he could face disciplinary action. The 10-and-a-half hour night shifts are four days a week with an hour break.
“The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness,” Marmot told the BBC after he was shown the footage.
“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 [the] individual’s health and well-being—it’s got to be balanced,” Marmot said.
Amazon says new recruits are warned some positions are physically demanding and has said its night shift is lawful based on expert advice.
The company has invested $1.62 billion in the U.K. and created 5,000 permanent jobs. In the United States, Amazon previously reported it was hiring up to 70,000 seasonal workers for the holidays.
Amazon could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.