The Case for Amazon’s 30-Hour Workweek Experiment
A reduced workweek may mean better performance, talent retention, and bigger payoff for employers.
In August 2016, the Washington Post reported that Amazon plans to pilot a program in which select teams will work just 30 hours a week. The teams’ employees will be salaried and receive full benefits, as well as 75% of the pay full-time employees earn. The entire team, including managers, will work on this reduced schedule.
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth,” states an event posting by the company. “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.”
The program comes just a year after a New York Times report depicted Amazon encouraging marathon workweeks while discouraging vacation — and even unfairly evaluating employees in the wake of personal crises like cancer or miscarriages.
Will the new part-time program help combat that image? Will the 30-hour workweek model impact Amazon’s productivity? While Amazon does not plan to roll the program beyond the select teams, research suggests that the company might reap some positive benefits from employees’ working less.
A reduced workweek benefits employees and the employer
Let’s look at how working fewer hours might result in healthier, more productive employees.
1. Shorter hours improve the physical and emotional health of the worker.
A National Bureau of Economic Research study examined manufacturing companies that experienced an unexpected spike in exports, meaning longer working hours, and the resulting toll on employees. The findings revealed that long hours on the job increase an employee’s risk for heart attack, depression, and injury. But despite more health concerns, employees took fewer sick days. The impact on productivity when a company has more sick, injured workers is self-evident.
On the contrary, a shorter workweek correlates with better physical, mental, and emotional well-being. That translates to more alert, adjusted, happy employees who have more stamina to complete their jobs. In fact…
2. A reduced workweek does not decrease productivity — rather, it often increases it.
There’s a reason 43% of companies offer shorter workweeks to some employees: It has a positive impact on their bottom lines. Just how much? Tax services firm Ryan saw revenue and profits almost double and client satisfaction reach an all-time high. KPMG goes as far as to say it uses flexible work hours as a “strategic business tool” that “allows us to accomplish our business goals and become more successful.”
Well employees leading balanced lives are able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, and that pays off for their companies.
3. Shorter hours may increase employee engagement and decrease turnover.
All the extra hours workers are putting in actually drive disengagement. Left wholly left unchecked, the culmination of issues arising from an unbalanced work-home life can increase absenteeism and turnover. Simply put, employees logging long hours are significantly more prone to burnout.
And turnover can be costly for employers. The U.S. Department of Labor currently estimates the average cost of a bad hiring decision to be as much as 30% of an individual’s first-year potential earnings. Think about how that adds up as employees put more time with the company and earn higher salaries.
Going back to Ryan, the tax services firm, implementing a shorter workweek reduced the company’s turnover rate from 30% to 11%. That’s huge.
So, Amazon is definitely onto something with its 30-hour workweek experiment. The question is, what will happen when it succeeds? Will more businesses try reducing working hours? Could something like this work for your business?
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