Will Amazon’s 30-Hour Workweek Really Boost Productivity?

5 min read
Oct 4, 2016

work-life balance

Amazon recently made headlines when the company announced it was testing out a pilot program to determine whether it makes sense to have employees clock 30 hours each week instead of 40 or more. In exchange for the reduced workload, employees would have to forego 25% of their salaries while retaining full benefits, according to Business Insider.

Company brass says the pilot program was designed to improve work-life balance, which in turn would ostensibly boost productivity. Additionally, 30-hour workweeks would enable a lot more people to enter the workforce — like new mothers and students — so the thinking goes.


Why Is Amazon Testing Out the New Program?

It might have something to do with the fact that research suggests more than 50% of U.S. professionals feel overworked or overwhelmed, as noted in this ABC report. You can’t expect your workers to reach their full potential if they don’t have lives outside of the workplace, after all.

overworked employees

On top of that, another study published by Forbes revealed that an impressive 89% of American workers admitted that they waste at least some time at work each day; 57% of workers waste at least an hour. So part of Amazon’s thinking might be that employees will waste less time when they’re working shorter shifts.

In any case, will Amazon’s move help workers become more productive? It remains to be seen, and Amazon certainly has the resources to test new things out. Despite the generally positive reviews the e-commerce juggernaut has received since announcing the pilot program, here are three reasons the program might not be as effective as executives hope:


01. Workers care about money

According to our Engagement Report, 25% of workers would take another job if it came with a 10% pay increase. Indeed, no matter what people tell you, a major reason to take any job is because of the salary that comes with it.

New York Post mentioned that there are a ton of U.S. workers who essentially haven’t seen their salaries increase in 16 years. While it might be nice to have 10 extra hours of your week back, you can’t actually pay your bills with time. If the goal of the program is to increase work-life balance, that might be impossible to accomplish if workers are forced to take on a second job to make ends meet.


02. Workloads are still overwhelming

In our Engagement Report, we found that nearly 70% of workers feel as though they have so much on their plates that it’s impossible to get it all done each week. Working fewer hours each week doesn’t necessarily mean workload problems will go away. If workloads are simply reduced by 25%, odds are employees will still feel overworked. And who knows? Maybe workloads will be reduced by less of a percentage, forcing employees to cram even more work into fewer hours. If Amazon’s employees leave work mentally exhausted at the end of each shift, that doesn’t bode well for an increased work-life balance.


03. It’s still a five-day workweek

Do the math in your head. You’d think a 30-hour workweek could be accomplished over the course of four days, but you’d be wrong. It turns out Amazon’s pilot program will require employees to head to the office Monday through Friday, just like their peers, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., as reported by Forbes.

Workers will then be able to divvy up their remaining 10 hours with flexible schedules, working at times most convenient to them. Sure, that might sound like an improvement over the traditional nine-to-five. But workers in the pilot program will still have to get to and from work five days a week. For people who have longer commutes, this could become a serious nuisance, particularly coupled with the fact that they’re earning less. To improve work-life balance, you’d think Amazon would let employees have four-day workweeks, so they could enjoy an extra day away from the office. Time will tell if the program is changed.

Amazon’s 30-hour workweek program may very well prove to be the most genius decision the company ever made. We’ll find out sooner or later. In the meantime, here are some proven ways to boost team productivity:


01. Invest in new technology

Anyone who’s ever worked at a company that relies on decade-old technology knows just how awful and frustrating such an experience can be. You spend a heck of a lot of time tinkering with outdated software or waiting on legacy hardware to work properly. On the other hand, by giving your employees access to modern tools — like collaboration platforms, cloud computing, and mobile devices — you make their jobs a lot easier. As a result, output ticks up.


02. Assess employee performance regularly

A lot of companies are still approaching performance reviews from an old-fashioned perspective, holding them on an annual basis. Rather than letting problems fester for months before addressing them, your company would be much wiser to assess employee performance on a regular basis — even once a week.

By utilizing weekly check-ins, managers are able to quickly gauge how their employees are feeling. If morale is low, they can take action quickly to rectify the situation. Remember, happy employees are productive employees.


03. Allow employees to work remotely

Studies show that remote workers are happier and therefore more productive than those who are forced to work out of an office every day. You might not want to let your staff work from home 100% of the time. But as long as they’re getting their work done well and ahead of deadline, does it really matter if they work remotely every now and again?



04. Offer career development opportunities

While many workers are interested in gaining new skills and growing professionally, only 25% of professionals feel as though their employers offer adequate career development opportunities, according to our Engagement Report. By making career development a cornerstone of your organization, your employees will learn new skills and become more effective workers. They’ll also be more engaged and less likely to look for new jobs, meaning you’ll get to leverage their talents for even longer.

What do you think about Amazon’s 30-hour workweek pilot program? Will it be successful in enhancing work-life balance? Will it boost productivity? Or will it make workers’ lives even more stressful?



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