What are the economics of giving employees the option of a 30 hour work week for 25% less pay like Amazon is doing?

Amazon is experimenting with a 30-hour work week for certain teams

I recently read an article by Leigh Stringer called Why a 30-Hour Workweek Is Good for Business.

The article discusses economic reasons why companies may benefit from allowing employees to work 30-hour work weeks.

Diminishing returns on longer hours:

There is an emerging body of evidence showing that after a certain number of hours worked, we lose our effectiveness. John Pencavel of Stanford University has done some of this research and claims our output falls per hour dramatically after working 50 hours a week and even more so after 55 hours per week.

From my own experience, I can say this is true for me. I’ve had to work long weeks and my productivity waned as the hours accumulated.

I developed a feeling of burnout that bled into the following week and I sometimes felt like I needed to take PTO just to give myself a “mental health day.” The effects were worse when the long hours impacted my sleep.

If it’s true that companies will not benefit from employees working longer hours, then allowing them to work shorter hours will have no impact at worst.

But another study showed that it may actually improve employee productivity by lowering absenteeism and increasing energy levels at work:

For about a year, nurses at the Svartedalens retirement home in Sweden have worked six-hour days on an eight-hour salary. They’re part of an experiment funded by the Swedish government to see if a shorter workday can increase productivity. The study found that 68 nurses who worked six-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group, they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a two-week period, they were 20 percent happier, and they had more energy at work and in their spare time. One of the research productivity metrics—the way the researchers proved the shorter hours increased productivity—was the number of activities the nurses engaged in with elder residents. The nurses increased these activities by 64 percent.

I’ve never been given a 30-hour workweek schedule, but I have had many weeks where I’ve taken a day off for a long weekend. I’ve been just as productive, if not more productive, during these weeks.

This is because I was more focused and happier because I was looking forward to a long weekend off with my family.

I’ve noticed coworkers tend to be happier the week before a long weekend also.

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and there is truth to this.

Companies will need to adapt to the changing demands of the workforce.

The workforce is shifting away from boomers and towards millennials.

The article comments on millennials beginning to have kids and needing more flexibility in their schedules. This is true and I’ll also add that as a millennial myself, our mentality is not the same as the grind mentality of boomers.

We are willing to work extremely hard under the right conditions, not under any conditions.

In fact, the best business case may simply be keeping up with the competition.

As more and more industry leaders like Amazon do this, other companies will inevitably look to experiment with shorter work weeks..

Soon, everyone will start to see “Flexibility is a major attraction and retention tool” and follow suit or lose their best employees to organizations that are willing to provide better working conditions.

If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend reading the article [1]. It’s short, but insightful.


[1] Why a 30-Hour Workweek Is Good for Business – Quiet Revolution

Featured image by Brandon Redfern.

First published on Quora.

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