Amazon is testing out a 30-hour workweek

Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images.

Amazon is planning a pilot program in which a select group of workers will only need to log 30 hours a week, The Washington Post reports.

Instead of the normal 40-hour week (or, more recently, the 50, 60, or 70-hour week), the world’s second-largest retailer will let roughly a dozen “part-time” employees cut back to just 30 hours at 75% the typical salary, but still retain all their benefits.

“A lot of companies have talked about wanting to lower hours but don’t seem to actually go about doing it,” Ellen Galinsky, president and founder of the Families and Work Institute, told the Washington Post.

The research on reduced work hours seems to support Amazon’s program, which is especially notable since The New York Times published a contentious report last year claiming Amazon workers basically lived at the office.

Human attention spans are notoriously poor. Evidence suggests we can only concentrate on a given task for several hours at a time before we start to feel fatigued and our minds wander. After we’ve hit our peak, our performance will begin to flatline or even suffer.

Amazon isn’t the first to propose shorter workweeks, though it may be the largest to propose such a big reduction.

For example, Ryan Carson, CEO of the technology education company Treehouse, has seen his employees become happier and more productive since he implemented the 32-hour work week in 2006. Core to Carson’s leadership philosophy is the belief that forcing people to work 40-hour weeks is nearly inhumane, he told the Atlantic last year.

And just this past July, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim said companies would do well to adopt his company’s policy of working fewer than 30 hours a week, with retirement at age 75. Slim says four-day weekends help people live more in the present, instead of waiting until old age to enjoy time off.

Amazon hasn’t announced yet when it will begin the pilot program, but once it does productivity and employee morale could both rise.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider Australia’s partner company, Business Insider Inc., through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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