'Despair closet' | Amazon slammed after unveiling new wellbeing initiative

Amazon slammed after unveiling new wellbeing initiative

Amazon has come under fire several times when it comes to the treatment of staff; the online retailer has been previously accused of preventing employees from taking toilet breaks, while a previous report claimed that Amazon wanted staff to be automatically fired without any human involvement.

Now the firm has once again been caught up in news headlines regarding a new wellbeing strategy.

In a press release shared by the firm, which outlines Amazon’s employee-designed health and safety programme called WorkingWell, it revealed that workers across US operations will have access to AmaZen, a booth where workers are able to take a break inside to watch “videos featuring easy-to-follow wellbeing activities, including guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds, and more”.

Amazon has dubbed them as “individual interactive kiosks at buildings”. 

However, after the firm shared the news on Twitter via a video, social media users have likened the booth to a “cry closet,” and “despair closet”.

Twitter user Talia Lavin wrote: “I feel like liveable wages & working conditions are better than a mobile despair closet.”

Meanwhile, David Chartier added: “Imagine working for a company so dystopian where conditions are so awful that they need to put a cry closet in the middle of the floor, and the company tries to sell it as a badge of honour.”

Leila Brown, the Amazon employee who invented the booth, said in the video that showcased AmaZen: “With AmaZen I wanted to create a space that’s quiet, that people could go and focus on their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“The ZenBooth is an interactive kiosk where you can navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery.”

While Amazon revealed the new booths on Twitter, the tweet has since been deleted.

Despite this criticism, in Amazon’s press release, Katie Miller, an employee from an Amazon fulfillment center in Etna, OH, stated that the pilot programme had been helpful.

She added: “Self-care is important, and AmaZen gives me an opportunity to take time for myself to just pause and regroup which helps me be better at work. When I take that time, I come back to work more focused, and it has a lasting effect on the rest of my day.”

Amazon’s treatment of staff

Across social media site Twitter, users openly criticised Amazon for its alleged poor treatment of staff. For example, this included accusations that the business interfered with workers’ rights to organise or to form a union, which has led to protests and strikes.

Joe Seatter alluded to this: “Or you could pay your employees well, not treat them like garbage, and accept unionisation.”

Elsewhere, a user called Tommie Sunshine pointed out that Amazon should focus on paying “people a living wage instead”.  

This news also comes after Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, recently shared that the business must "do a better job" for its staff.

HR Grapevine contacted Amazon for comment but did not hear back at the time of publication.

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