Amazon tries to make warehouse work more fun by turning real tasks into video games

Some of Amazon’s warehouse workers don’t have to choose between work and play with the introduction of company-created video games that turn tedious tasks into productive fun.

A detailed report from The Washington Post describes how the company has installed screens at many of its warehouse workers’ stations that allow employees to turn tasks like assembling orders and moving items into competitive games.

Game titles include options like MissionRacer, Dragon Duel, and CastleCrafter and typically involve a productivity-based point system. 

The more tasks a worker completes, the more points or progress they make in the game.

Amazon is using video games to help increase productivity and make working in its warehouses less tedious.

Amazon is using video games to help increase productivity and make working in its warehouses less tedious.

Amazon is using video games to help increase productivity and make working in its warehouses less tedious.

In a report from Fast Company, a picture of a screen displaying ‘Dragon Duel’ at one of Amazon’s warehouses shows how the game operates on a simple point system – 16 points for each product they pick – and shows a ranking system based on the scores of other employees in warehouse. 

Points earned through the games not only increase employees’ clout in the warehouse but can also earn workers ‘badges’ and ‘Swag Bucks’ – a type of currency for Amazon employees that can be exchanged for Amazon-branded merchandise like sweatshirts, mugs, and more, according to the Post.

Employees, or players, also have the option of challenging their co-workers to games or alternatively, playing solo. 

The process of introducing functional games into the workplace, known as gamification, has had mixed results in workplace. 

Sometimes, the process can imbue otherwise mundane tasks with meaning and even an add an element of fun, but according to one expert interviewed by the Post, the line between enjoyment and added stress is a fine one. 

‘Competition is only enjoyable for a short time … As soon as workers start underperforming against their colleagues, it becomes less fun and can actually be counterproductive,’ Game Designer Jane McGonigal told the Post.

Whether the games are fun or stressful is a fine line according to one expert quoted in a report from the Washington Post.

Whether the games are fun or stressful is a fine line according to one expert quoted in a report from the Washington Post.

Whether the games are fun or stressful is a fine line according to one expert quoted in a report from the Washington Post.

Other more extreme cases have even seen the gamification of tasks lead to great instance of workplace injuries. 

While workers quoted anonymously in the report seem to mostly approve of the games introduction into their workplace, Amazon continues to face criticism for the treatment of many of its workers, especially those in its fulfillment centers and warehouses.  

A recent report from The Verge revealed that Amazon uses a stringent AI-based metric system to not only monitor its employees performance, but to sometimes terminate employees automatically if they fail to meet benchmarks. 

The pressure to perform up to company standards in Amazon’s warehouses are reportedly so great that a recent survey found 74 percent of its workers in those facilities feared using the bathroom because a break could affect their output. 

According to a recent estimate by Amazon, in about a decade warehouse employees may not even need to take bathroom breaks, as the company may have its fulfillment process entirely automated. 

WHY HAS AMAZON BEEN CRITICIZED FOR ITS TREATMENT OF EMPLOYEES?

Amazon has been accused of ‘dehumanizing’ its staff to deliver products to customers.

Workers at the internet shopping giant’s distribution centers face disciplinary action if they lose a punishing race against the clock to track down items ordered by online shoppers.

Staff paint a picture of a stressful environment ruled by the bleeps of handheld devices – nicknamed ‘the gun’ – instructing them which items to collect.

Bosses are said to push staff so far past breaking point that they ‘practically combust’, while regular sackings to keep workers on their toes were described by one HR manager as ‘purposeful Darwinism’.

According to an expose last year, the company’s best workers are known as ‘Amabots’ – because they are so ‘at one with the system’ they are almost cyborgs.

In November shocking claims were made about the online retailer’s newest warehouse – which the company refers to as a ‘fulfilment centre’ – in Tilbury, Essex.

The packing plant is the biggest in Europe, the size of 11 football pitches, and is due to ship 1.2million items this year.

In November shocking claims were made about the online retailer’s newest warehouse – which the company refers to as a ‘fulfilment centre’ – in Tilbury, Essex

In November shocking claims were made about the online retailer’s newest warehouse – which the company refers to as a ‘fulfilment centre’ – in Tilbury, Essex

In November shocking claims were made about the online retailer’s newest warehouse – which the company refers to as a ‘fulfilment centre’ – in Tilbury, Essex

The investigation, by an undercover reporter for the Sunday Mirror who spent five weeks there, suggested workers suffer mentally and physically as they try to meet demand.

He said that some of his colleagues were so tired from working 55-hour weeks that they would ‘sleep on their feet’.

‘Those who could not keep up with the punishing targets faced the sack – and some who buckled under the strain had to be attended by ambulance crews,’ he added.

Just the following month it emerged Amazon delivery drivers are asked to drop off up to 200 packages a day, are paid less than minimum wage and urinate in bottles because there’s no time to take a break

Legal firm Leigh Day, which led a case against taxi giant Uber, is representing seven drivers who say the agencies used by Amazon are mistreating them.

While Amazon does not employ the drivers directly, the drivers, who are recruited through agencies, work via an Amazon app and follow delivery routes made by the company.

But drivers who are given up to 200 packages a day to deliver, say that traffic jams, weather and speed limits make it near impossible to deliver all of the parcels in a timely fashion.

A spokesperson for Amazon said: ‘Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace. The safety and well-being of our permanent and temporary associates is our number one priority.’

 

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