Amazon is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, but a recent study by a stress expert found that working conditions at world’s the largest online retailer could increase the risk of “mental illness and physical illness."
Job stress expert Prof. Michael Marmot was shown secret footage of night shifts at Amazon, during which a worker walked 11 miles while collecting orders every 33 seconds.
Marmot said the warehouse conditions are “all the bad stuff at once.”
A 23-year-old undercover reporter, Adam Littler, was hired at Amazon’s Swansea warehouse as a “picker.” A handset told him what items to collect and counted down 33 seconds to find it. When he made a mistake, his scanner beeped.
"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. "We don't think for ourselves, maybe they don't trust us to think for ourselves as human beings, I don't know."
"The characteristics of this type of job, the evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness,” Marmot said.
"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 individual's health and wellbeing - it's got to be balanced."
Amazon said official safety inspections haven’t shown cause for concern.
An independent expert contracted by Amazon said picking is "similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness.”
Some jobs are more physically demanding, and Amazon says new recruits are warned.
Littler worked during the day at £6.50 per hour, but at night the rate was £8.25 per hour.
He worked a 10.5 hour shift four nights a week with an hour’s break per shift.
"I managed to walk or hobble nearly 11 miles, just short of 11 miles last night. I'm absolutely shattered. My feet are the thing that are bothering me the most to be honest."