A journalist and author took a job at an Amazon warehouse for an investigative story. What she experienced and saw is eye-opening to say the least.
“I took a job in an Amazon fulfillment center in Indiana over a few weeks–along with a call center in North Carolina and a McDonald’s in San Francisco–to investigate the experience of low-wage work.
I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting working at Amazon would be. It took my body two weeks to adjust to the agony of walking 15 miles a day and doing hundreds of squats. But as the physical stress got more manageable, the mental stress of being held to the productivity standards of a robot became an even bigger problem.
Technology has enabled employers to enforce a work pace with no room for inefficiency, squeezing every ounce of downtime out of workers’ days. The scan gun I used to do my job was also my own personal digital manager. Every single thing I did was monitored and timed. After I completed a task, the scan gun not only immediately gave me a new one but also started counting down the seconds I had left to do it.
It also alerted a manager if I had too many minutes of “Time Off Task.” At my warehouse, you were expected to be off task for only 18 minutes per shift–mine was 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.–which included using the bathroom, getting a drink of water or just walking slower than the algorithm dictated, though we did have a 30-minute unpaid lunch. It created a constant buzz of low-grade panic, and the isolation and monotony of the work left me feeling as if I were losing my mind. Imagine experiencing that month after month.
I felt as if the company wanted us to be robots–never stopping, never letting our minds wander off task. I felt an incredible amount of pressure to repress the human ‘failings’ that made me less efficient than a machine. (Amazon in response said that this is not an ‘accurate portrayal of working in our buildings’ and that it is ‘proud of our safe workplaces.’)
Unless you’ve worked a low-wage service job over the past decade or so, it’s hard to understand how stressful widespread monitoring technology in the workplace has made life for the bottom half of the labor market.”
For the rest of her story, visit Time here.