Amazon came up with a dystopian solution for when its warehouse employees struggle to keep their sanity amid workloads so grueling they often don’t have time to use the bathroom: Banish them to the meditation box.
The “ZenBooth” or “Mindful Practice Room,” as it’s called, is part of Amazon’s recently launched WorkingWell program, which is aimed at providing its notoriously overworked employees “physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support” intended to “help them recharge and reenergize,” according to a company press release. In these tiny capitalism panic rooms… er, excuse me, “individual interactive kiosks,” workers can watch videos of “guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds, and more.”
In a now-deleted video about the kiosks that Amazon shared on Twitter Wednesday, a coffin-size box is shown smack dab in the middle of one of its warehouses. Inside is a small desk with a single monitor, a few shelves with plants, a small fan, and a skylight meant to imitate a bright, blue sky in case employees forget what that looks like during exhausting 10-hour “megacycle” shifts.
Amazon worker Leila Brown, who helped create the ZenBooth as part of WorkingWell’s mental health initiative, AmaZen, said in the video that she wanted to “create a space that’s quiet” where “people could go and focus on their mental and emotional well-being.”
She added that these kiosks are meant to help “recharge the internal battery”—because we all know Amazon basically sees its employees as biorobots. Amazon did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment about how many of these Zen Booths have been installed or why it took down the tweet. (Though the latter probably has something to do with the backlash of Twitter users rightfully pointing out how dystopian the idea is and deriding it as a despair closet).
In its press release, Amazon outlined plans to invest $300 million into safety projects in 2021 to hopefully cut its rate of workplace incidents by 50% by 2025. Amazon has a horrific track record when it comes to working conditions in its warehouses. One study found that Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries at its warehouses in 2019. That works out to about 7.7 serious injuries per 100 employees, three times the national average for this line of work.
Call me crazy, but I think Amazon would have better luck improving its employees’ mental health and limiting its rate of workplace incidents by treating its workforce like human beings instead of grinding them into dust with unrealistic demands so Jeff Bezos can pocket another billion dollars.