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How viable is Amazon’s 30-hr work week?
Prajjal Saha | HRKatha | Bengaluru | Thursday, 01 September 2016

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Will this remain just a pilot initiative or does it have the potential to scale up?

This week, Amazon announced its plans to launch a pilot programme, for a few select techies with a 30-hour work week. A few teams comprising only such employees who opt for this arrangement, including managers, will be allowed to work from Monday through Thursday, from 10 am to 2 pm. They will also log additional hours on a flexible basis, but at a salary of only 75 per cent of what a normal 40-hour work week employee would get. However, they will receive benefits at par with a normal full time worker.

Many companies have a fleet of part timers, but they are all members of the regular team — there is a mix of full timers and part timers. What differentiates Amazon’s programme is that here the entire team will be of such part-timers.

Jeffrey P. Bezos, CEO, Amazon, says in an official statement, “We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth.”

Rajesh Padmanabhan

How viable is this programme? Will this remain just a pilot initiative or does it have the potential to scale up? Last month, Sweden also announced the move towards a standard six-hour workday, with businesses across the country implementing the change.

It’s certain, that such programmes, if implemented across the organisation, can help increase diversity and retain talent.

Amazon’s initiative seems like a smart idea because it’s a team of techies, which has a lower percentage of women employees. This implies that such teams can attract more women talent and enhance diversity. Overall, only 39 per cent of Amazon’s workforce consists of women.

However, can such teams be exclusively women teams? Or can this be extended to other functions as well? Who will opt for such programmes? Will they be treated at par with the normal employee when it comes to appraisal and increment? Many of these questions need to be answered.

Rajesh Padmanabhan, director & group CHRO, Welspun Group, opines, “Work–life balance, across the world, will get redefined due to three reasons — people seeking more personal time, reduction in enterprise lives and increase in digitalisation and automation in every area. All three factors are increasing in momentum in every industry.”

“With people pursuing more of life and purpose than work and career, and with workplaces demanding multiple approaches of workforce segmentation — both from enterprise risk and long-term sustainability — I think the model is here to stay,” he adds.

The penetration will be higher in the Western world for now. This flexible approach could be a win-win proposition for all and more hybrid workforce models will emerge in times to come.

Pradeep Mukerjee

Pradeep Mukerjee, founder and director of Confluence Coaching & Consulting, says, “In markets, such as the US and Europe, there are many people who will be willing to take a pay cut for reduced work hours as it will allow them to pursue other interests as well, unlike in India.”

“In advanced economies, the basic needs are taken care of quite easily and there is not much of a difference between a person earning $100,000 and another earning $15,000. On the other hand, in India, people really struggle to meet the basic requirements and a 25 per cent pay cut makes a lot of impact,” he explains.

However, in the Indian scenario, it could work wonders for women who are forced to take a sabbatical. The fact is that even after the mandatory maternity leaves, which has now been extended to six months, many mothers are forced to call it quits or take a break due to family needs.

In such a scenario, if a woman is allowed to continue her job with uber-flexible schedules and the promise that they will be judged at par with other fulltime employees in terms of appraisal and promotions, such programmes can work wonders.

Then will the rest of the teams feel resentful about those who work less? Quite a catch-22 situation.

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Thursday, 01 September 2016

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