Bad working conditions are repeatedly accused of e-commerce. These are, for example, the drivers of online delivery services or the employees of the mail order company Amazon. But there are also headlines to the contrary, in which by employees in e-commerce from one good work-life balance or one above average pay is reported. Even a quick look makes it clear that this is a complex topic for which there are no general answers.
E-commerce advertises good working conditions
It was only in 2018 that the Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail Order Germany e.V. launched its new information brochure out. This shows that there is a flourishing labor market and employee-friendly collective bargaining policy in online trading. However, these are by no means empty claims, but the statements are supported by 40 clear graphics. It represents the first noteworthy analysis on the subject of working conditions in German e-commerce.
The bottom line was that a positive picture was drawn: It is an industry that is free from outdated understanding of roles, according to a fundamental statement by the CEO. Accordingly, employees in e-commerce can find flat hierarchies, direct communication and maximum flexibility. The companies are characterized by modernity and innovation, which also has a positive effect on their culture.
The benefits of working in e-commerce
In fact, there are a multitude of attractive professions with excellent working conditions in the industry. After all, the range of jobs is more diverse than in any other area of work. Above all, well-trained specialists, for example in the IT sector, will find many entry opportunities here at good conditions.
There is also no shortage of opportunities for advancement, and online retailing also offers numerous options for those who want to become self-employed. There are therefore many ways into e-commerce, be it through studies, training or as a lateral entrant with further training. Many employees originally come from online marketing, IT or business administration. You choose e-commerce because it is an industry with excellent future prospects that also welcomes young professionals with open arms.
Easy career entry after graduation
“Getting a job after completing my master’s degree was not a problem at all,” reports an e-commerce graduate. This is also confirmed by 29-year-old Stefan Berkenhoff. After graduating, he was able to choose from four lucrative offers without even writing an application, he explains. Nevertheless, the two have already come into contact with the darker side of the industry.
A high workload, constant changes due to a certain “lack of plan” and a rather mediocre payment, at least apart from the large corporations, are just a few of the many examples. This lack of planning stems from the fact that the business field is comparatively new and no one knows for sure what works and what doesn’t. The result is constant restructuring, changes in strategies, project revisions and, and, and …
High workload and maximum mobility
These are problems that can be observed in many industries. In e-commerce, however, they are definitely more pronounced in numerous companies. New business fields offer excitement and a daily work routine without routines or boredom, but that can also be very exhausting. “Trying is better than studying” is the motto for many agencies, online retailers and the like. For the employees, this means a consistently high workload, because the industry is booming and nobody wants to miss the boat.
A high degree of mobility is also required. While “remote work” is gaining in importance, value is still placed on personal contact, for example with business partners, and so constant travel has become the norm in some jobs. Once again, however, it should be said at this point that the working conditions strongly depend on the respective activity, the employer and other factors. The bottom line is that it seems to be a coin with two sides, neither of which predominates and which is therefore not in principle better or worse than other industries. So what’s the problem?
You have to be made for e-commerce
On the one hand, there are these characteristics that simply do not suit everyone. If you don’t mind a rapid pace and if you long for a varied working day, you will actually find a very promising industry in e-commerce. But stress often becomes a problem. However, this is often (also) self-caused. So if you want to be successful in e-commerce, you have to work on your resistance to stress and effective methods of stress prevention develop.
Otherwise the job will sooner or later become a health and psychological burden. Other important soft skills for working in e-commerce are teamwork, communication and adaptability as well as a high willingness to learn in order to be able to cope with constant changes and innovations. E-commerce as a whole is therefore not a “good” or “bad” industry per se, but rather it is perfect for some people, but unsuitable for others. It therefore makes sense to check whether it suits you before you start your career, for example as part of an internship.
The downsides in e-commerce
When reports are made of the poor working conditions in online retail, it is always a one-sided view of things. Nevertheless, this must not be concealed, because it also has its right to exist. It is above all the simple jobs that do not require any higher qualifications or special training, in which the working conditions repeatedly come into the focus of the media. For example, workers in the Amazon logistics centers report poor pay, inadequate health protection and pressure at all levels.
In addition, working conditions have become worse and worse in recent years instead of better. This does not seem to be an isolated case, because other employees in e-commerce are also making allegations against the industry: dumping wages, long working hours and the constant fear of losing their jobs are therefore not only commonplace at Amazon. Added to this are security concerns and unrealistic expectations – both from customers and employers.
Logistics is particularly affected
The examples mentioned, from the drivers of online delivery services to the logistics workers at Amazon, make it clear that logistics, as a part of e-commerce, is particularly affected by poor working conditions. Sometimes even is here the language of “slave-like working conditions” and “exploitation”. Experts even assume an organized irresponsibility of some companies. In plain English: You don’t want to exercise your “social responsibility” at all, at least not towards your own workforce. Instead, the term is used as a pure marketing tool, which however does not result in any actual action. While buzzwords like “Fairtrade” or “Sustainability” have been used all too often to advertise products in e-commerce in recent years, working conditions have not improved much during this period – quite the opposite.
Conclusion: good working conditions for skilled workers
When it comes to working conditions in e-commerce, black and white painting is often used. In fact, it is an industry with many problems that urgently need to be resolved, especially in logistics. But the range of companies, professions & Co in the industry is huge and therefore no general statements can be made. After all, every industry has its own advantages and disadvantages. While e-commerce with its special features is certainly not suitable for everyone, others find their professional fulfillment here.
Highly qualified specialists in particular enjoy good working conditions in many cases. Nevertheless, of course, you shouldn’t close your eyes to those employees in e-commerce to whom this does not apply. Experts are therefore calling for stricter guidelines and more controls. Whether and when these will come cannot be foreseen at the moment. So it is still mainly up to the companies to what extent they want to live up to their “social responsibility”.