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Kristina Johansson och Klara Rydström
Kristina Johansson and Klara Rydström participate in the project. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

The work environment in e-commerce will be explored

Published: 22 January 2021

E-commerce is an increasing part of the total retail trade. But knowledge about the work environment in e-commerce is limited. In a new project in work science, the significance of gender and country of birth for working conditions in e-commerce with groceries will be investigated.

Unlike traditional wholesale, e-commerce handles consumer packaging for individual households and not bulk packaging for companies. The warehouse environment also means that e-commerce, unlike store work, takes place "behind the scenes" without direct contact with customers. The existing research on the working environment can therefore not be directly transferred to e-commerce.

– Today, groceries in e-commerce are picked manually and in different temperature zones and we need more knowledge about the workload the working enviroment results in. Another important work environment issue has to do with technical aids, such as PDAs or voice control, and how they in various ways make it possible to control the employees, says Kristina Johansson, senior lecturer in Human Work Science and project manager.

Gender and racialization are analyzed

The project will specifically analyze the e-commerce work environment from an equality perspective. Existing research on shop work has shown that women's occupational health tends to be worse than men's and that these differences can be linked to differences in work tasks. In addition to gender aspects, the researchers believe, there is reason to analyze inequality in e-commerce based on aspects of racialization and the background of employees.

– If we look at warehousing work in general, workers with a foreign background are far more common than in the retail trade, and there is reason to believe that this also applies to e-commerce warehouses. Previous studies have shown that notions about employees' origins shape working conditions and the working environment, so it is an important aspect to investigate in order to fully understand the work in e-commerce, says Klara Rydström, doctoral student in Human Work Science.

Five e-commerce stocks are analyzed

The project, which is carried out together with researchers from the University of Gävle, will analyze five e-commerce warehouses with the help of interviews, questionnaires and load ergonomic measurements. The combination of data will provide answers to what kind of physical and psychosocial workloads that occur in e-commerce with groceries and to what extent workloads and stress disorders differ between workers of different genders and countries of birth. Finally, the project will provide answers to how these differences can be understood as part of the organization's inequality pattern.

The project has been funded with research funding of SEK 3.7 million from FORTE over a period of three years.