It’s the dream — to have a great job with an internationally known and respected tech firm, with all of the benefits and perks, and a great salary. The only thing that could make it better? Working part-time hours. Amazon — though its work culture has been heavily criticized in the past — is evidently taking measures to improve its image, and is incorporating these very things into its workforce.
Amazon is experimenting with them, at least. The same company that’s trying to bring you your packages via drone, and even 3D-print orders on the way to your home, is also tinkering with a 30-hour workweek.
A new test program being implemented by Amazon is utilizing part-time tech teams, but also giving its employees the perks and benefits of full-time workers. Though we don’t know much in terms of details, Amazon is billing the program as a way to “reinvent the work-life ratio” for tech workers.
“The concept of part-time employment is not new — there are many people at Amazon who currently work a reduced 30 hour per week schedule. What is novel for Amazon is the creation of teams that are entirely comprised of part-time employees, including managers,” an Amazon brief, released prior to an August 25 event via Eventbrite.com, said.
The Amazon pilot program
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth. This team structure will ensure similar schedules, and enable ownership that allows team members to innovate and think big on behalf of our customers. Core hours for the teams will be Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. with flex work hours throughout the week.”
Essentially, Amazon is trying to figure out a way to shorten the workweek. That sounds pretty awesome (from an outsider’s perspective) and is a concept that many people — including billionaire business leaders — have been championing over the past few years. But this is the first time we’ve seen a major company actually start working with the idea on the ground.
The catch is that these employees will not be paid as much as Amazon’s full-time regulars, which is understandable given that they won’t be working as much. As the Washington Post reports, there are other big companies out there that allow employees to tweak their schedules. Deloitte, for example, lets some employees work four days per week. The Post points out that Amazon’s move may be a way to attract a more diverse and reflexive staff. More flexible hours would make it easier for female employees to balance home and work matters, such as picking up kids from school.
Part-time jobs: The future of work?
While it’ll be exciting and interesting to see what comes of the company’s experiment, the real question is whether other companies will start similar programs, and if the idea will have any real impact on the economy at large. In a time where many people are already having trouble finding enough work to make ends meet, and millions more facing redundancy due to technological innovation in the near future, part-time work is likely to become more and more common.
And if people are losing their benefits and taking significant pay cuts (in the form of lower-wage, part-time work) by the millions, it’s going to seriously hamper the entire economy. Who’s going to order knick-knacks from Amazon if nobody can afford it? It may be in the company’s best interest to try something like this out.
Of course, it could just be a way to help rebuild the company’s image after a damning New York Times article exposed the rather cutthroat work culture present on the company’s campus. That piece was widely read and put Amazon on its heels. In terms of attracting talent, it put the company at a disadvantage as it fights with other big companies for employees.
Just within a mile or two of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft also have a big presence. After reading about how some employees claim Amazon’s offices can be so difficult to work in, you can bet that convincing a promising job candidate to sign on with Amazon over one of the others would be a tough sell.
Either way, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens in the wake of Amazon’s new test program. If it works out and catches on, we may be on the verge of shorter workweeks for at least one sector of the economy.