Amazon’s 30-Hour Work Week Pilot: Sign of the Times?
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on September 12, 2016 at 9:20 am
The notion of a 30-hour work week with full benefits isn’t common, particularly in the technology world. But that’s what Amazon.com is piloting as it pushes back from criticism over its work-at-all-costs culture and adapts to a desire by millennials for better work/life balance.
Earlier this summer, the Seattle ecommerce giant said it would test a program in which some teams made up of engineers and technology staff would have a 30-hour work week, yet members would be afforded the same benefits as those who work full-time. In return for the reduced hours each week, they will only get 75 percent of their pay.
Amazon already offers part-time workers benefits, but this is the first time an entire team will work a reduced schedule. The part-time workers involved will work on technology programs inside the company’s human resources department from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday and additional flex hours.
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth,” Amazon said in a recent posting on Eventbrite.com, according to the Washington Post. “This initiative was created with Amazon’s diverse workforce in mind and the realization that the traditional full-time schedule may not be a ‘one size fits all’ model.” Amazon plans to find team members for the pilot both internally and outside the company. It told the Washington Post it doesn’t have plans to change the 40-hour work week companywide.
Amazon quells work-at-all-costs culture criticism
Amazon wouldn’t say it, but some contend the move is also designed to quell complaints about the work culture at the company. Last year the New York Times published a scathing report about Amazon in which it said the company urged employees to work 80 hours per week. Lots of the employees rarely took vacation, the newspaper reported.
Regardless of Amazon’s motivation, the 30-hour work week pilot program comes at a time when younger workers are struggling to land well-paying jobs and ones that provide them with health-care benefits. “The great recession hit millennials hard and often after college they have had to make tough decisions about taking low wage jobs and ones without benefits,” says Eve Rips, director of regional strategy at Young Invincibles. “Young adults are uninsured at higher rates than any other demographic and are more likely than any other generation other than seniors to end up in the emergency room.”
30-hour work week can help Amazon draw a more diverse pool of applicants
College graduates with sought-after skills aren’t having a tough time landing jobs, particularly with unemployment at an eight-year low. But for many graduates, a well-paying job is hard to come by. Companies of all sizes are complaining the current crop of graduates lacks the skills needed even for entry-level positions.
The pilot program at Amazon is expected to draw a more diverse pool of applicants who wouldn’t apply to the company otherwise because of the tough work schedules. “They’re wisely paying attention to the demands of the marketplace. Many employees are seeking reduced hours and more flexible work options,” says Nicole Smartt, author of From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead At Work and co-owner and vice president of Star Staffing. “In addition to attracting millennials, it allows them to reach stay-at-home moms or dads who have untapped skills and the ability to work while their kids are in school. Having part-time, flexible hours opens the door to many more candidates.”
Luring more women to Amazon would be a win for the technology powerhouse. Amazon and many other technology firms are dominated by men, with 76 percent of Amazon’s management positions held by males. More women would be attracted to technology companies such as Amazon if they could better balance the demands of motherhood and a career.
Amazon is the first technology company to announce this type of pilot program, but expectations are that others will follow suite. Millennials have been outspoken about valuing a balance between working and living and are driving a lot of changes in the workforce.
It doesn’t hurt that by 2020 they will represent almost half of the work force. “More employers will move towards flex time as they realize the inherent benefits,” Smartt says. “Workers are more likely to remain at a company that offers this flexibility, which is key in retaining the most talented employees. Also, flex time is an inexpensive way to reward employees for their hard work—another retention technique. Finally, the happiness that work/life balance offers may well feed the bottom line in the way of decreased medical costs.”