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BBC: Amazon Workers Face "Increased Risk of Mental Illness"

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the take-this-job-and-shove-it dept.

Businesses 321

Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC is reporting that an investigation into a UK-based Amazon facility has uncovered conditions that experts believe foster mental illness. At the root of the problem seems to be unreasonable performance expectations combined with a fundamentally dehumanizing environment. From the article: 'Amazon said that official safety inspections had not raised any concerns and that an independent expert appointed by the company advised that the picking job is "similar to jobs in many other industries and does not increase the risk of mental and physical illness."'"

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321 comments

Stick your timers up your ass (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45516997)

You have 30 seconds to comply

BOZOS for BEZOS! (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#45517169)

Hell comes to your house, one box at a time!

"similar to" (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517017)

Working at hopelessly automated amazon warehouses where you are treated as a physical automaton with no free will is "similar to" working in a traditional warehouse in the same way ozone is "similar to" O2. It's made of roughly the same thing, but isn't exactly good for you.

Re:"similar to" (5, Insightful)

jcoy42 (412359) | about 8 months ago | (#45517251)

I would argue that very few jobs are actually "good" for you.

But we can't all run around naked in the forest eating nuts and berries.

Quite the conundrum.

Re:"similar to" (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517367)

Occasionally one must have a Mountain Dew.

Re:"similar to" (4, Interesting)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 8 months ago | (#45517287)

Call me back when they find evidence of actual people with actual mental illness which is actually attributable to the job. Until then its just finger pointing at a big target.

What prompted this investigation? Sounds like a news crew just looking for a story they can call big.

Re:"similar to" (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517331)

That's reasonable to consider, but strong enough correlations say something. Not necessarily causation, but implies a relationship of some kind. Thankfully us plebs are spared the actual p values to make a judgement for ourselves.

Re:"similar to" (1, Funny)

war4peace (1628283) | about 8 months ago | (#45517389)

Bullshit!
I've done jobs worse than that and I didn't go crazy! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHAHAHAAAAAAHHHH!
*runs away, hands flailing*

Re:"similar to" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517505)

I know this post is 100% intended as humor, but I'd like to point out that "bad" as in unpleasant, and "bad" as in harmful to mental health aren't necessarily the same.

Re:"similar to" (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#45517369)

Call me back when they find evidence of actual people with actual mental illness which is actually attributable to the job.

What, you're asking for causal attribution in individuals? You're aware that there are huge swathes of medical science where you simply won't get any? Unless you're willing to undergo a premature autopsy, that is. It's quite disingenuous to dismiss the study results for this reason alone.

Re:"similar to" (2, Insightful)

geek (5680) | about 8 months ago | (#45517433)

Call me back when they find evidence of actual people with actual mental illness which is actually attributable to the job.

What, you're asking for causal attribution in individuals? You're aware that there are huge swathes of medical science where you simply won't get any? Unless you're willing to undergo a premature autopsy, that is. It's quite disingenuous to dismiss the study results for this reason alone.

He isn't talking about "huge swathes of medical science," he's talking about one very narrow one where its very possible and in fact reasonable to get a diagnosis. Since there hasn't been one, it's also reasonable to deduce that the whole thing is a money grab. Not exactly hard to deduce either considering Amazon employees are striking right now in Germany (soon other places in Europe) for higher pay.

Re:"similar to" (3, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45517803)

How many bodies do you need for this? Must they be permanently disabled or will it be OK if they recover 80% in a year or two on the dole? How overt do the signs need to be? Must they don their Napoleon hats and bobble their lips in the corner all day or is it enough that if a voice like the one in their headphones says "invade France and slap people with a herring" they do it without question?

It's funny that your deduction doesn't meet the level of proof you demand.

Re:"similar to" (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 8 months ago | (#45517353)

I'm amazed that Amazon use human beings as pickers. I'm surprised it is not all automated.

Take Ocado as an example. 9 people work in each warehouse that is just as big as Amazons that employ thousands in each one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKpyPO76yZ4 [youtube.com]

Re:"similar to" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517391)

They ship all sorts of unwieldy and unusual things. Even a perfectly automated warehouse would need "problem solvers."

Re:"similar to" (1)

cusco (717999) | about 8 months ago | (#45517593)

They're working on that, but the system seems to have trouble with the variety of types of items. Think about the necessity of adapting to handle an iPad, a DVD, a dead-tree bookshelf, and a stuffed platypus all on the same order. For some things robotic systems work well, for others they don't. It will probably be a couple more years before they can roll the robots out on a large scale.

Re:"similar to" (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517393)

I worked in a couple of warehouses around 10 years ago, and the work then was certainly "similar" to this description. Even without electronic automation most warehouse jobs are repetitive, it is the nature of menial labor. Imagine a never ending series of boxes coming down a conveyor belt, which must be read and sorted based on destination, then lifted and stacked on the appropriate pallet. For 9 hours, with a 1 hour lunch. It was hard, but it made me in the best shape of my life. It was actually not terribly mentally crushing either, at least nobody was calling me at 4 am on a Saturday to come in to fix the office VPN. I since worked office jobs with passive aggressive bosses that were much more deleterious to my physical and mental health than warehousing. The Amazon warehouse are possibly worse than most, but they honestly sound like par for the course. I worked overnights at a convenience store one summer and that was far more dangerous.

Re:"similar to" (1, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517491)

There are differences. For example, Amazon employees face a zero tolerance policy to talking to each other during work hours. Speak to anyone, lose your job. Now while I'm anti-social as all hell, humans in general aren't, and that's a formula for stress.

Re:"similar to" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517597)

Different AC here, but at my old job that policy wasn't needed. You were wearing ear protection on a loud floor, and were being clocked so precisely that a casual conversation was as likely to happen as the owners deciding they had enough money and the entire business now belonged to the workers.

Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cause (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517021)

This Thanksgiving I am going to hear from all of my pro-union family members about how evil Walmart (my employer) is, and how they treat their employees. All the while comparing books they are reading on their Kindles and shopping for Kindle Fires for their kids.

Liberals are so awesomely hypocritical.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (2, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 8 months ago | (#45517073)

This Thanksgiving I am going to hear from all of my pro-union family members about how evil Walmart (my employer) is, and how they treat their employees. All the while comparing books they are reading on their Kindles and shopping for Kindle Fires for their kids.

Liberals are so awesomely hypocritical.

So we trade families for Thanksgiving. You can have my awesomely hypocritical conservative in-laws instead.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (5, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#45517121)

Why would you two trade families when you can get married and have the worst of both worlds at the same time?

mod parent up (4, Funny)

mekkab (133181) | about 8 months ago | (#45517337)

In-Laws: because we're not happy unless you're not happy.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (4, Funny)

CraftyJack (1031736) | about 8 months ago | (#45517553)

Thanksgiving: It's like the /. comments, but with turkey.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 8 months ago | (#45517575)

Thanksgiving: It's like the /. comments, but with turkey and alcohol.

Fixed it for you.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517835)

You're missing out. slashdot goes well a nice Chianti

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517093)

Generalizations aren't going to do much. Some conservatives are much the same.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (2)

jythie (914043) | about 8 months ago | (#45517269)

At least one generalization is probably true... a lot of people are hypocritical jerks. As are horses.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (4, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | about 8 months ago | (#45517113)

Oh, is your employer the one that held a food drive for you because you wouldn't have enough food for thanksgiving with the shitty pay you get, or was that a different wal-mart?

Also, I don't own a kindle, and I'm aware of, and try to avoid the modern slavery in electronics production.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517117)

It's hard to organize the everyman's anger into collective action (what it takes to end things like Walmart's and Amazon's mistreatment of workers) towards multiple targets at the same time. Wouldn't it be nice, though, if there were a way for workers themselves to organize, so it didn't take a media campaign for them to get better treatment?

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (3, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 8 months ago | (#45517209)

Problem is that robots are already waiting in the wings ... Amazon pickers have only a couple years of job left as it is (unless minimum wage craters faster than robots get cheaper, at third world wages they can outcompete robots for a few years longer ... hard to see who will be left to consume though). If they unionise robots will take over faster.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517401)

If robots unionize we have bigger problems than filling jobs for pickers

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (2)

bennomatic (691188) | about 8 months ago | (#45517127)

Liberals are so awesomely hypocritical.

I can't decide whether to respond, "...says the AC" or, "...how the heck did this turn into a liberal vs. conservative issue?"

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (5, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about 8 months ago | (#45517203)

It turned into a liberal vs conservative issue because those who aren't in favour of workers not being made ill by their work needed a way to justify that, and therefore did their best to associate it with what's commonly seen as an extreme, and slightly insane political affiliation. They then burned this straw political affiliation man at the steak to demonstrate how dumb it was to support the idea of workers not being made ill by their work.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517383)

And then they eat the steak, well-cooked by the straw-fueled flames.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45517417)

No, it's always been a liberal vs conservative issue, because liberals passionately hate anything that's successful without the government being involved.

And 'mental illness' is one of the standard lefty sticks to beat people with. They'll probably be marching into Amazon warehouses soon to drag out the 'mentally ill' workers and send them to camps to be 'cured' of wanting to work for Amazon.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (2)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45517853)

I thought that was right wingers and homosexuals..

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

bennomatic (691188) | about 8 months ago | (#45517459)

I'm confused. Could you please make a car metaphor?

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517493)

I'd like to agree with you. but there were so many double nagatives I couldn't work out what side you were actually on. Well done, or stop it. One or the other.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

geek (5680) | about 8 months ago | (#45517583)

It turned into a liberal vs conservative issue because those who aren't in favour of workers not being made ill by their work needed a way to justify that, and therefore did their best to associate it with what's commonly seen as an extreme, and slightly insane political affiliation. They then burned this straw political affiliation man at the steak to demonstrate how dumb it was to support the idea of workers not being made ill by their work.

Can you show me who got ill at this Amazon warehouse please? Oh yeah, you can't because no one has..........

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517683)

I can't decide whether to respond, "...says the AC" or, "...how the heck did this turn into a liberal vs. conservative issue?"

The former makes no sense, in light of the fact that there's nothing ironic or hypocritical about the grandparent post being made anonymously.

The latter, on the other hand, is a valid point. So go with that one.

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (1)

koelpien (639319) | about 8 months ago | (#45517231)

There's an overworked/overstressed Amazon worker delivering books to my Kindle?

Re:Amazon brutal, but not a convenient liberal cau (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517277)

They run really, really fast, hence the stress.

The bourgeoisie creates its own gravediggers (4, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 8 months ago | (#45517031)

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Re:The bourgeoisie creates its own gravediggers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517703)

Well, they are 'free' to go right now. We'll just replace them with robots anyhow

Where would we be without experts? (3, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | about 8 months ago | (#45517071)

A BBC investigation into a UK-based Amazon warehouse has found conditions that a stress expert said could cause "mental and physical illness".

Well, that settles it.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517163)

I don't want to believe this, so I'm going to make "expert" sound like it's a bad thing even though I have no real argument

Re:Where would we be without experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517349)

Well I just bought stuff from Amazon so I have to absolve my guilt somehow!

Haha! No, I bought stuff from Amazon Canada, which I'm sarcastically certain is much better.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 8 months ago | (#45517309)

Who needs to bash 'experts' when we have 'BBC investigation'. Parts of the BBC do some great reporting, but most of it is tabloid level irresponsible.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (-1, Flamebait)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45517343)

The BBC is mostly staffed by trendy lefties writing stories for their trendy lefty mates. It would have collapsed long ago if most people weren't forced to pay for it just because they own a TV.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (2)

jythie (914043) | about 8 months ago | (#45517443)

I don't know, I see a lot of conservative garbage come out of their reporting too.....

Re:Where would we be without experts? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45517495)

I don't know, I see a lot of conservative garbage come out of their reporting too.....

I guess you could argue that the British left are really now the conservatives, because they're the ones trying to conserve bloated government and a massive, inefficient welfare state in a world where decades of socialism is driving the nation into bankruptcy.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517887)

No it isn't. The BBC is full of Oxbridge-educated upper middle-class types & their kids. Some may be lefties but only in a wooly 'lets be nice to the gays' sort of way, however many of its top names and power-brokers are typical right-wingers (Andrew Neil, Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Patten, Michael Portillo). Sure the Daily Mail and other cretinous rags will insist the BBC is a heaving mass of Communists, but the Daily Mail is perhaps the worst excuse for a newspaper since the Sunday Sport. I would concur that the BBC have a fair few liberal dramatists, but this is probably because right-wing entertainment really doesn't sell with a general audience (don't recall everyone rushing out to make Atlas Shrugged a big hit...)

Re:Where would we be without experts? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517513)

Parts of the BBC do some great reporting, but most of it is tabloid level irresponsible.

As an American, I'll tell you, the BBC has nothing on CNN, FOX, MSNBC, et al when it comes to 'tabloid level irresponsible'.
I'm not sure if there is a credible news organization left on the planet. The BBC is at least still tying to be one.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 8 months ago | (#45517435)

It all boils down to UK natives whining that "it's hard" and refusing to do it unless they're paid extra. Then, some Romanians, Poles, Bulgarians come in, get the same jobs for 70% of the initial wage the UK natives were whining about and work harder and are happier with 0% insanity. This, in turn, fuels more whining from the UK natives who yell that "foreigners got our jobs, boooo!!!"

Meanwhile, the world spins round and the Universe doesn't give a flying fuck.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45517511)

Then, some Romanians, Poles, Bulgarians come in, get the same jobs for 70% of the initial wage the UK natives were whining about and work harder and are happier with 0% insanity.

That's because they're getting paid ten times as much as a doctor would in their own country for doing menial work, and can save enough in a few years to go home and set themselves up for life.

If 'Lazy Britons' could earn $1,000,000 a year for fifteen hour days cleaning offices in Poland, they'd be out there with a big smile on their face eager to do as many hours as they could.

Re:Where would we be without experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517467)

Cue the anti-American propaganda.

Amazon warehouses lower SAN score, while TESCO warehouses are "good".

Welcome to a world run by Republicans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517075)

This is the type of life they want for all of us.

Re:Welcome to a world run by Republicans (2)

genner (694963) | about 8 months ago | (#45517107)

This is the type of life they want for all of us.

YEah......the UK is just a bastion of republican ideals........

Re:Welcome to a world run by Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517125)

Amazon is a USA company. Why try to defend them by repeating the lie that they aren't?

Total Crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517099)

This is total crap. Mental Illness? Seriously? The BBC needs to get a life.

Re:Total Crap (2)

beelsebob (529313) | about 8 months ago | (#45517221)

Ah right, illness that you can't see manifest on the surface is not illness at all, right?

Re:Total Crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517293)

Hey Bezos, How's it going? Got enough H1B slaves yet?

Re:Total Crap (5, Insightful)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 8 months ago | (#45517299)

I wouldn't class stress or depression as a mental illness, it is a physical one.

AC, at least the BBC have the balls to do this, unlike other commercial broadcasters.

modern society causes mental illness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517105)

humans haven't evolved to live in communities larger than 100-150 people, we lack the capacity to recognize people outside our immediate social circle as human and instead treat them like objects and obstacles

interacting with strangers is inherently stressful due to uncertainty and the vast majority of people the average person interacts with every day is a stranger

unfortunately going back to the "correct" lifestyle of small, disconnected communities would require a disaster on the scale of an extinction level event

11 Miles a shift? (4, Insightful)

jddeluxe (965655) | about 8 months ago | (#45517157)

I once accidentally worked for the US Postal Service for a year and a half and my job involved walking that much every shift; I must say that I was probably at my best physical shape of my life outside of military service...

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517267)

That's actually common in the last generation of semiconductor fabs as well, employees walk 10-15 miles per 12 hours. The current generation of 12 inch fabs have robot tracks to each tool, far less walking, far less employees.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (5, Interesting)

dysmal (3361085) | about 8 months ago | (#45517335)

Having worked in a warehouse before, the physical toll of WALKING on a concrete industrial floor can be bad. My back, feet, and knees were in bad shape after about 9 months. You need to wear proper foot attire but most people working these jobs don't learn that until it's too late. Brand new athletic shoes were "flat" after 2 months yet they looked like they were in mint condition. There's a reason why they have the padded safety mats anywhere that people tend to stand in one place for hours on end. Look under the feet of your checker at your grocery store! I don't doubt the job is mindless and can be torture for someone who has independent thought but to say that someone is at risk of "increased mental illness" is garbage. The plight of the Amazon.com workers is nothing new. Amazon isn't treating their workers drastically different than other warehouse/shipping companies. They're just getting picked on because they're the biggest (like Apple getting attacked for the child labor at their suppliers). If we as a people want this situation to change, then we as a people need to stop clicking on "express shipping" and be patient.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 8 months ago | (#45517663)

No, if we as a people want to fix this we have to force it on each other through government ... tragedy of the commons and all.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | about 8 months ago | (#45517783)

I buy a ton of stuff from Amazon, I of course have Prime, but most of the time I switch from 2 day shipping to standard shipping, I just don't need most stuff that fast. There are exceptions, but I'm happy with standard shipping most times.

I actually wouldn't mind the option at checkout to pay 50 cents more to give the worker who packs my item a bonus.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517371)

Walking around outdoors through a wide stretch of neighborhoods, however, might be a bit less mind-destroying than trudging through an endless maze of grim industrial warehouse. I like my walks outside getting from place to place --- but I doubt Amazon's warehouses are anywhere near as pleasant for a stroll as even the less scenic neighborhoods on a postal route.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (3, Interesting)

Njovich (553857) | about 8 months ago | (#45517403)

I once accidentally worked for the US Postal Service for a year and a half

Accidentally? How did that work? Did you think it was a sysadmin job when they were talking about mail delivery system?

Re:11 Miles a shift? (3, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 8 months ago | (#45517631)

I once accidentally worked for the US Postal Service for a year and a half

Accidentally? How did that work? Did you think it was a sysadmin job when they were talking about mail delivery system?

He just means he has been collecting pay checks from the USPS for decades, but accidentally, in spite of himself, without really meaning to, inadvertently, he performed some activities that turned out to be working.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

jddeluxe (965655) | about 8 months ago | (#45517711)

"Accidently" = Was trying to get an IT job, but was told they only "hired from within". Took a non-IT job, but found that most of the IT positions were "filled" by General Foremen and higher friends/girlfriends who actually did nothing...

Re:11 Miles a shift? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45517445)

That sort of physical activity wouldn't bother me when I was in my 20's or 30's. In fact I had a supervisory job where I had to walk a lot when I was in my late 20's.

Now that I'm a few decades older I still do 3 miles in an hour on a treadmill at the gym a few times a week. Not sure I could do 11 miles every day right now but I could probably work up to it.

The 33 second timer thing though would get pretty damn annoying. I think personal control and freedom to make decisions on a job are really what separates menial from not, much less than the physical activity.

In fact I am surprised they don't have people going 'postal' as a result.

Re:11 Miles a shift? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517515)

"...outside of military service..."

Being in the military is a service to no one.

Balancing Act? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517161)

What is the correct balance between societies desire and expectations of highly automated system's (virtual and physical) behavior and outputs and the real social need for low-skilled positions? As we move towards better working conditions for some, the stark contrast between the "old" way of working, however much we improve it and the standard "perks" of more modern positions, is there anyway that we could measure that doesn't result in "dehumanizing conditions"?

What is the replacement for these positions that doesn't have the same end result? How can you possibly make packing boxes, something that common sense shows is going to go away quickly, any more "human" when they are surrounded by large automated machinery?

I don't think we have even begun to talk about this, and IMO it's at the core of most of the labor conversations that are going on. Personally I would love a 6 month work year. It would give me 5 months of full-time training/learning and 1 month of vacation and I believe would allow me to be more focused those other 6 months. As much as I don't like the modern US organized labor organizations, the idea that as we increase productivity through automation, the ability to share the rewards of automation through shorter work hours I think should be revisited. Perhaps in those 6 months off you could work for a plucky startup? Go volunteer? Teach? Etc. People want to be productive and do things they enjoy, I think that is how we could solve at least one aspect of the issue; making the end results more humanizing.

Re:Balancing Act? (3, Insightful)

Andrewkov (140579) | about 8 months ago | (#45517599)

Any gains in efficiency never result in less work or more vacation time... it results in layoffs and cost cutting to be more competitive and increase margins, which in turn forces other companies to do the same thing. Combine that with globalization, it's a race to the bottom.

Obvious counterargument (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 8 months ago | (#45517177)

Amazon: BBC employees have increased incidence of mental illness.

(Thing is, they're probably both right)

Remind anyone of Manna? (3, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 8 months ago | (#45517185)

The gear they're using sounds like a very primitive precursor to the headsets from Manna...which are already very close to completely possible. Just some Google Glass units and the rest is software (where the difficulty lies, in object recognition of course).

Re:Remind anyone of Manna? (5, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | about 8 months ago | (#45517303)

Yes, that was my first thought when reading the article.

And since you did not provide a link here is one for people wondering what we are talking about.

http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

Re:Remind anyone of Manna? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517525)

If the republicans get their way, "where it will be heading" is going to be more like that remote controlled cockroach kit. Except they wont be plugging it into cockroaches...

The alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517235)

Either accept this or give up the jobs to robots

Most adults are mentally ill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517295)

Some are just better able to keep a lid on it than others

Vote here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517305)

RU Kidding?
This new slashdot format sucks the big one.

The root of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517313)

unreasonable performance expectations combined with a fundamentally dehumanizing environment

I don't work for Amazon, so why are they describing my job?

Oh Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517319)

Another country of people who feel entitled to not perform at there jobs. Would it help if we gave everyone a pat on the shoulder, and a little trophy just for trying to so your job?

Get over yourselves. You're nothing special!

You don't have to be crazy to work here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517327)

But it helps.

Cute article to generate anger at big bad Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517357)

Is it a great job? Probably not. It the job physically demanding? You betcha. Is it a mental challenge? Not really. Is it dehumanizing? Puhleeez.....

I am guessing the "reporter" already had a conclusion and simply did what it took to prove his point of view. Heck, in high school I worked in a warehouse. It was hot and sweaty work with a very regimented schedule. The pay was lousy but it got me some spending money. As another poster said, it was great exercise. Not everyone it cut out for warehouse work and softies like the reporter should stick to sitting at home playing Candy Crush Saga.

The truth is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517405)

Working in general causes mental illness. Nobody should have to work, we should just be given what we want and stay stress free for our entire lives.

Let's just replace pickers with robots... (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 8 months ago | (#45517429)

The entire warehouse is already a big Kiva robot cluster... Now use something like a "Baxter" bot to do the picking. ta-da. One baxter bot costs 22k a year. Once you got the kinks worked out you could have a whole army of the things and have a couple humans running around just trouble shooting when things don't go as planned.

Re:Let's just replace pickers with robots... (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45517457)

At which point, the BBC will be printing articles about how awful it is that Amazon are sacking all their workers and replacing them with robots.

While supporting the left-wing government that encouraged British companies to shut down their factories in the UK, sell the land for condos, and move the work to cheaper locations in Eastern Europe. And blaming Thatcher. Right on!

Re:Let's just replace pickers with robots... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517603)

If you think the BBC supports the "left-wing," you're out of your mind. Their reporting --- like all the mainstream media outlets --- goes far out of its way to give right-wing propaganda talking points a "fair hearing" against facts and responsible journalism. The BBC is a typical "balanced" news source, giving right-wing fluff pieces, unchallenged corporate PR, and mindless Capitalist slogans equal priority with factual journalism. Strong, articulate leftists are rarely to never given a platform to speak at all --- at best, you'll hear leftist speech watered down to second-hand re-phrasings by a journalist, followed by a "balancing" straight from a corporate PR mouthpiece.

Re:Let's just replace pickers with robots... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517745)

To be fair Thatcher tripled unemployment, introduced student loans, sold nationalised industries off for peanuts (and no, the service isn't better or cheaper, See: BT, British Gas etc.), allowed foreign companies to take over much of what was left, treated whole swathes of the country like shit, allowed councils to sell off school playing fields to property developers and, well, created that whole property-owning landlord monster class who is still fucking over the masses & means a typical house the size of a matchbox in the UK costs more than a middle-class home in the US.

And while we're at it she presided over a cover-up concerning Hillsborough, a cover-up over police actions during the Miner's Strike and was best pals with England's most famous TV presenting paedophile rapist - Jimmy Savile (actually demanding he should be Knighted by the Queen).

There's a lot more that can be said about Mrs T. Sure, she didn't outsource to Eastern Europe (no one did then - Cold War and all that). However, she was meant to be 'tough' on immigration while the inner-cities filled up with all manner of immigrants. Yeah, I know many down South still love her, but much of the rest of the country see her as someone who did more to kill the social fabric of Britain than the Germans in WW2.

As for the BBC, you do know many of its top staff are Conservative supporters don't you? Since the coalition got in the BBC has bent over backwards to push a right-wing agenda (including those numerous God-awful 'Oh look at all the benefit scroungers' documentaries). They also appear to act as a job agency for failed Tory MPs who litter its programmes. The BBC is and always has been the Establishment. Sad really.

Might as well push automation to it's max (1)

Piata (927858) | about 8 months ago | (#45517817)

Sooner or later humanity will have to deal with the looming "work crisis" so we might as well get this revolution started. One of the big gains of automation should be removing the mudane and insanity inducing tasks required. Sadly the reality seems to be more people ending up in call centers and retail but I don't see how this is sustainable. What's the point in giant mega malls or telemarketers when everyone is too poor to afford anything?

The floor is going to fallout sooner or later so might as well rush the process along.

Remember kids... (1)

bra1n (3416909) | about 8 months ago | (#45517613)

STAY IN SCHOOL!

Re:Remember kids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517865)

... to add insult to injury, when you find yourself competing with all the other higher education graduates for a brutal mindless dehumanizing job that barely keeps food on the table.

Today's Tautology (2)

carlhirsch (87880) | about 8 months ago | (#45517625)

Dehumanizing Work Is Dehumanizing.

i worked one day at a barnes and noble facility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45517801)

byzantine mess of conveyor belts dropping an endless deluge of packages at you that must be scanned and packed on pallets, fuckers didn't even give a lunch break but since i was part of a temp crew of mostly undocumented mexicans they probably figured no one would dare complain. i didn't complain i just never went back. i've worked in warehouses for furniture companies and unloading trucks full of wooden desks is a better gig that working in one of these online retailers facilities. if amazon is anything like barnes and noble, then yeah, working there for more than a week or two will probably break you down, hell, i only lasted a day.

My warehouse experience sucked too (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 8 months ago | (#45517811)

I never worked for Amazon, but I worked at a much smaller warehouse that handled fragile items. Our mode of work was nowhere near as brutal as what they're describing. The warehouse was about the size of a large gymnasium. We picked, then packed so that broke up the monotony. Looking for irregular but functional items was also fun. These were randomly given free to employees at various times. That was about the only real perk. A lot of other things sucked. The management just didn't have a lot of respect for the employees. It was all about "discipline" and I left over a dispute involving working straight through lunch. I think it flew just under the labor law radar there. There was a trash compactor there that broke a guy's arm allegedly, and they just welded that stupid thing back together. The lack of respect probably ran both ways. One of the guys slid on some boxes and used it as a pretext for disability. I saw the guy. He looked fine to me.

I only did it for a few months, then did a few more jobs and went back to school.

Anyway, as sucky as the job was this Amazon thing sounds like the pits. In a small warehouse you're always in conversational contact with another human being, or close by. You're not alone too much. It sounds like these pickers are just listening to a machine and running through a football-sized warehouse all the time. It doesn't sound like they get a chance to pack, sweep, clean, or do other stuff that could break up the monotony and allow them to socialize while working.

A company as smart as Amazon could find a way to solve these problems; but I think the solution will be to simply have pick-bots do the work and fire the employees. I have mixed emotions about that. Crappy minimum-wage jobs have a purpose sometimes. If you're not going crazy as a picker and day-dreaming about something else, schlepping back to the flat and commiserating with your buds about a crappy job, then what are you doing?

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