- An Amazon employee told Insider he was depressed after working six days a week before Christmas.
- The worker said after doing it for 10 weeks he had “lost hope of having a normal life”.
- It’s “like being in the gym for 10 hours straight”, they said, and working nights is “difficult”.
This narrated essay is based on a conversation with an Amazon warehouse worker in the UK who spoke anonymously to protect his privacy. Their identities and jobs have been verified by Insider. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
My role in an Amazon warehouse is inventory control. This involves counting the number of items placed in a bin or pod – where items are collected – scanning barcodes on items in the bins and keeping a record of the number of identical items placed in each bin.
These three tasks are called counting. I also keep a record of damaged items by walking around the warehouse floor and collecting them on a cart, entering them into a system, then sorting them.
Some of the items are sent to “damage land” – a place where we keep damaged items which can be sold at a lower price. Since inventory control is the responsibility of the quality department, I also check for errors, such as items placed in the wrong place.
Receiving damage means having to walk all night around a huge distribution center. It is physically demanding as the objects can be heavy.
As Christmas approaches, it is very tiring. People are stressed and it’s not a good atmosphere.
We are better paid, but overtime is compulsory.
Outside of peak hours, I work 40 hours a week over four days. In my contract, it says that Amazon has the right to change our schedule, so when the high season begins in November, managers notify us during a briefing at the start of each shift of any schedule changes.
I was told at a briefing that it is mandatory to work five shifts a week in high season, rather than the regular four shifts, and workers can also volunteer to work a sixth shift.
Last year’s high season was really tough
I volunteered to increase my overtime by five to six days because I wanted to earn more. My husband wasn’t working at the time so I did this for 10 weeks. After that, I got sick and couldn’t take it anymore.
I had aches, aches and pains. A ten-hour shift is like being in the gym for ten hours, because the bins and modules are huge, which means you’re climbing up and down a stepladder to get to the top.
I was exhausted. I had no life outside of work and was constantly physically and mentally exhausted. I felt depressed. I didn’t want to see anyone, including my husband and my son.
On my day off, I slept. I barely saw my son and only had a short chat with him before or after school. I lost hope of having a normal life. If all you do is work and sleep, how can you feel otherwise? I felt depressed and cried every day.
I couldn’t leave work because I was the only one in my family working
It was a bad time and I was constantly tired and angry. I didn’t have the energy to do housework or chores. I only thought about sleeping.
I didn’t see any friends before Christmas. When I started doing four days a week again, I was still exhausted. It takes time to recover from a burnout.
I wake up around 4 p.m. when my son comes home from school, I cook for him, I take a shower and I leave at 5:15 p.m. because my night shift starts at 7 p.m. I finish at 5:30 a.m.
It gets crowded around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it gets worse around Christmas. The pods, where items are sorted and ready to ship, are full during peak season. There is no space on them and we are working under pressure.
The biggest challenge is recruiting new people as temporary workers to help cover the high season. It’s a disaster because new workers don’t know all the rules. It makes it harder for others, because it means they have to fix their mistakes.
Since they’re temporary, new people tend not to care as much about their jobs because they know they’ll eventually leave and so don’t pay much attention to items.
During high season the canteen is the worst as there are around 200 people at a time waiting to use the microwave, buy food or use the vending machines. The food is disgusting so I bring my own. When the canteen is so busy, you waste 10 minutes queuing to use the microwave.
I now do five days a week, which I have a contractual obligation to do, and it’s still hard and tiring but I’m not volunteering for an extra day of overtime this year.
Night shifts are tough and it’s physically demanding work and involves a lot of walking. In the morning, when I come home, I don’t have the energy to do anything. I just want to have a life.
In response to this warehouse worker’s comments, an Amazon spokesperson told Insider: “Working in a warehouse isn’t for everyone. But for those who don’t want to sit at a desk all day, it’s a hugely rewarding job.”
They added: “The fact is, if you want to work in a warehouse, you’ll want to work at Amazon. Along with great pay and benefits, we make sure everyone is supported, treated with dignity and respect, enjoys regular breaks, and works at a comfortable pace. See for yourself by joining a live tour.”