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GeekWire reports that Amazon took two steps to lessen the tension among its warehouse employees.

First, it said it is "modifying its infamous Time off Task employee tracking software to provide more breathing room for bathroom breaks, conversations with supervisors, and equipment repair. 

"The changes, revealed in a blog post by Dave Clark, CEO of the worldwide consumer division, comes on the heels of another report about the company’s unusually high warehouse injury rate."

And second, it said it would support  legalization of marijuana at the federal level, and would "stop screening for use of the drug for certain classifications of employees."

The shift in how the company uses Time Off Task software came as Amazon deals with a new report criticizing the level of warehouse injuries in its facilities.

"Starting today, we’re now averaging Time off Task over a longer period to ensure that there’s more signal and less noise - reinforcing the original intent of the program, and focusing Time off Task conversations on how we can help," Clark wrote in the blog posting.

"The goal is to re-focus the conversations on instances where there are likely true operational issues to resolve. We believe this change will help ensure the Time off Task policy is used in the way it was intended."

GeekWire writes that "on the same day as Clark’s post, union-backed Strategic Organizing Center published a study that it said showed Amazon fulfillment centers had 5.9 serious injuries for every 100 employees, a rate nearly 80% higher than non-Amazon warehouses. Similar to the reasons stated for the attempted union organization in Bessemer, Ala. this spring, the SOC blamed Amazon’s Time-off-Task-driven work culture and pressure."

As for the shift on marijuana, GeekWire writes that Amazon now "is supporting the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021, legislation that would legalize pot and help clear expunge criminal records while investing in communities most affected by severe drug laws."

Clark blogged, "Given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course.  We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use … We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law."

KC's View:

Did someone at Amazon have an epiphany on the road to Damascus?

Even as it relaxes its Time Off Task and stops testing employees for pot, there is a Business Insider piece about how Amazon has put out a "wellness guide" for warehouse employees telling them to train like "industrial athletes," and to buy shoes immediately after ending their shifts so they'll better fit on swollen feet.

And, according to Vice, "in one of its most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny booths where its overworked warehouse employees can momentarily escape a job so grueling, many employees say they don't feel like they have enough time to even use the bathroom."  These booths are being referred to as "ZenBooths'' or "Mindful Practice Rooms."

The thing is, Amazon might be able to address these issues simply by being more humane and less strict in how it manages warehouse employees.

But if that doesn't work, I have an idea.  Having relaxed its time-off practices, Amazon should actually make sure that the zen rooms have foot baths complete with Epsom salts, so that people can deal with their swollen feet that way.  And then, maybe they could supply some complimentary marijuana for when people are meditating and soaking their feet, and could rechristen the rooms as Blunt Booths.