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Amazon’s ‘Toxic’ Workplace Shows Why We Need to Prioritize Employee Mental Health

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s mental health editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.

In a new investigative report, reporters from the Daily Beast found that over a period of five years, 189 emergency calls were made from 46 Amazon warehouse sites for employee mental health episodes — many of which were suicide-related.

As a note, the report contains graphic details of employee suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm, so if you’d like to read it, please do so carefully. You can read the full report here.

Employees interviewed in the article attributed work stress primarily to high work performance quotas, as well as other poor working conditions like timed bathroom breaks and having to work in social isolation.

“It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” former Amazon employee Jace Crouch told the Daily Beast. “[It’s] mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”

The shocking report highlights exactly why we need to do more to protect the mental well-being of employees. Though this particular story is about Amazon, the reality is, mentally unhealthy work conditions exist everywhere. Don’t believe it’s that bad? The data doesn’t lie.

If wanting to take care of employees is not enough of a motivator, it’s worth mentioning that depression cuts productivity significantly. In a study on severity of depression and the magnitude of productivity loss, researchers (unsurprisingly) found the more severe their depression, the more unproductive an employee was.

But here’s the good news. According to the APA Foundation, investing in employee mental health is actually good for business. When given access to mental health treatment, 80 percent of employees reported improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction. For more resources on improving employee mental health, head to the APA Foundation’s online Center for Workplace Mental Health.

If you find yourself in a toxic work environment (even if it’s not as extreme as the Amazon situation), you deserve support. We recognize finding a new job takes time and effort — two things you may already have in limited supply. If you feel able, talking to your manager or human resources (HR) department about work conditions can often be a good place to start.

But if you are looking to leave your job, we encourage you to follow The Mighty’s #NowHiring page to find and post job opportunities. For other helpful job-related resources, check out the following pieces.

Header image via Amazon Facebook page