Project 3: Warehouse Work, Health, and Well-Being

Mental health problems and injuries are major causes of chronic disease, absenteeism, low productivity, and high health care costs in the workplace. This study focuses on workers in fulfillment centers in the e-commerce segment of the warehousing and storage industry — a growing and important industry. Warehouse workers face a double burden of physically taxing and high-strain jobs that negatively impact mental and physical health, including injury-related disability. Because fulfillment center workers earn low wages and are disproportionately Black and Latinx, our study aims to modify conditions of work to promote the health of workers who are often subject to systemic health inequities. 

The project tests a participatory workplace intervention that introduces “Health and Well-being Committees” (HaWCs) to multiple sites in one firm. HaWCs solicit workers’ concerns regarding safety hazards and stressful work conditions, and implement action plans to address them, creating a new channel for worker input into the conditions of work. Using a cluster-randomized trial we will evaluate whether the intervention improves mental health and positive psychological well-being, reduces injuries, and encourages injury reporting. Additionally, we will conduct a process analysis of key factors that support effective implementation of and sustained engagement in the program. We are seeking additional support for evaluating how these workplace changes affect organizational performance, including impacts on turnover and productivity. 

We will produce a set of scholarly articles and research-for-action products (e.g., business school-type case studies, implementation guidelines) in hopes of encouraging broader adoption of this innovation and of participatory “Total Worker Health” approaches more generally. 

Different stages of this project have been funded by grants from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as part of the Harvard Center for Work, Health, & Well-Being; the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; the MIT Sloan Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative; and the MIT Sloan Health Systems Initiative.