In one of its most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny booths where its overworked warehouse employees can momentarily escape a job so grueling, many employees say they don't feel like they have enough time to even use the bathroom.
The "ZenBooth'' or "Mindful Practice Room," as it's called, is part of the WorkingWell program Amazon announced on May 17. According to an Amazon press release, WorkingWell is a mix of "physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support” meant to “help them recharge and reenergize." One of the WorkingWell initiatives is AmaZen, which “guides employees through mindfulness practices in individual interactive kiosks at buildings,” according to a press release.
What this looks like in reality is a coffin-sized booth in the middle of an Amazon warehouse where workers can use a computer to view "mental health and mindful practices."
Based on a video released on an Amazon Twitter account, plants sit on a shelf and a fan runs to cool down the employee. The skylight on top is tinted blue. Pamphlets and signs adorn the walls. A computer waits for the employee to load up a guided meditation video.
“With AmaZen I wanted to create a space that’s quiet, that people could go and focus on their mental and emotional well-being,” Leila Brown, the Amazon employee who invented the booth said in the video. “The ZenBooth is an interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery.”
Brown is giving away the game by using the language of machines. A worker is not a robot with a battery that needs to be charged. A worker is a human who needs things Amazon simply does not provide its workers. Amazon drivers piss in bottles and shit in bags. Amazon drivers sued for being paid less than minimum wage and fought against an initiative to install surveillance cameras in their cars.
Facing increased pressure from within and without due to its horrifying working conditions, Amazon has tried to clean up its image in the past year. It rebranded its brutal 10-and-a-half hour “megacycle” shift to “single cycle” after workers protested. AmaZen, like much of what Amazon is doing, is putting a new coat of paint on the same old shitty system.
Motherboard reached out to Amazon to find out when, exactly, its overworked staff is supposed to use the AmaZen booth. Is it during their notoriously short breaks? Should they break off five minutes of their lunch to stare at another Amazon computer screen?
Amazon did not immediately respond to Motherboard's request for comment.