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Amazon keen to know if its corporate staffers are feeling any better yet

Amazon HQ
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock
Reports of apparently tough working conditions for Amazon’s managers and engineers made a lot of headlines when the NY Times in August published a lengthy exposé on life inside the company.

Speaking with more than 100 current and former employees of the online retail giant, the article highlighted instances of, for example, intense meetings where employees were regularly reduced to tears, and how staff were expected to deal with company emails that landed in the Inbox after midnight.

“Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover,” the NY Times said in its piece.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wasted little time in expressing concern over the “shockingly callous management practices” detailed in the report, telling staff in a memo that it “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know,” adding, “I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NY Times would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.”

Daily feedback

Following the NY Times’ report, and as part of an apparent effort to get better feedback on how management and other corporate staffers are dealing with day-to-day life at the e-commerce outfit, the company is reportedly expanding its “Amazon Connections” system that collects responses from workers on a daily basis “on topics such as job satisfaction, leadership and training opportunities,” Bloomberg said in a report over the weekend.

Of course, considering the reported hardships and tense atmosphere endured by some of Amazon’s corporate employees, it’s not clear how comfortable they’ll feel about giving open, honest answers to questions about their work life. However, Amazon’s top team clearly sees Connections as an effective way of addressing and responding to difficult workplace-related issues.

In an effort to encourage frank responses, Amazon says all replies are handled confidentially and shared only with the Connections team, based both in Seattle and Prague. Occasionally the team contacts workers for more information, while personal data is always removed from any reports produced as a result of feedback, a person with knowledge of the system told Bloomberg.

Warehouse workers

Connections, which launched last year as a way for warehouse workers to raise issues and air grievances, was set up following numerous media reports that depicted life for the firm’s global army of pickers and packers as tough and unrelenting.

One such report from the BBC in 2013 featured undercover footage taken at an Amazon warehouse in the U.K. A stress expert who viewed the video said conditions appeared to be so harsh that workers faced an “increased risk of mental and physical illness.”

At the time Amazon said it’s alway up front with potential new recruits regarding the physical demands of some jobs, adding it believed its working methods “comply with all relevant legal requirements.”

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