A few lucky Amazon.com employees will soon get to have what so many workers only dream of: a shorter work week.
The company is getting ready to launch a program that will have a few technical teams made up of employees who work just 30 hours a week, yet they will be salaried and will receive the same benefits as traditional 40-hour workers. Employees on the part-time team will make about 75% of what full-time Amazon workers make.
The Affordable Care Act requires companies to offer benefits to employees working more than 29 hours a week.
Currently, both part-time and full-time Amazon employees receive the same benefits. However, the pilot program would differ in that an entire team, including managers, would work fewer hours.
In an Amazon posting on Eventbrite.com for an informational seminar, the company said:
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth. 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.”
At the beginning, only a few dozen people will participate in the program. The selected teams will work on tech products within the human resources division of the company, working Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., plus additional flex hours.
These workers will get 25% less pay, but they will have the option to become full-time employees, if they choose. A spokesperson said that Amazon does not have plans to alter the 40-hour workweek on a company-wide level.
You might recall that last April, Amazon came under fire for…well, being an awful place to work. The New York Times interviewed more than 100 former and current Amazon employees, who told the paper that the workplace environment was one of stress and extreme micromanagement.
Why Amazon Went Under Fire
Through the company’s “Anytime Feedback Tool,” employees regularly snitched on each other (though they had the option to praise each other, too) and these “reports” often played a role in who moved up and who got canned.
According to the interviewees, Amazon was notorious for working people to the breaking point, then kicking them to the curb. And by “working people to the breaking point,” they meant 80-hour workweeks.
All of that is disturbing enough on its own, but the employees interviewed by The Times described a truly heartless corporation, where cancer and even the death of a close relative was no excuse for sub-par performance or a legitimate reason to take time off.
If any employer was in need of a complete makeover, it was Amazon.
The Benefits Of Shorter Workweeks
Scientific studies and surveys support shorter workweeks. After a few hours of concentration, the human brain starts to short-circuit and people begin to lose focus. Once people hit their peak for the day, the quality of their work begins to suffer.
And it goes without saying that most people feel frustrated and disheartened when all of their time is spent at work, and they’re not able to spend enough time with family and friends.
Ellen Galinsky, president and founder of the Families and Work Institute, said that many companies talk about reducing hours, but never follow through. She hopes Amazon’s plan will take away the stigma associated with shorted workweeks.
“There has for a very long time been a stigma against working reduced hours, or part-time work. Even names like that, ‘part-time’ or ‘reduced,’ make it seem like a deviation from the norm, like you’re doing less.”
The strategy could also improve diversity in the workplace. At Amazon, men comprise 76% of the management positions across the company globally. A 30-hour workweek could be a huge draw to women, who still tend to take on more domestic responsibilities than men.