This news posted on a Friday, which is a bit ironic.

According to Buzzfeed, Amazon has started making full-time work an optional idea. The company is offering a subset of tech employees who work at the headquarters in Seattle the option to work Monday to Thursday, or about 30 hours, and they only have to be in the office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The rest of the hours can be worked as "flex time" so that employees clock in about 30 hours total. They will be paid as part-time employees but receive the benefits of a full-time, 40-hours-per-week employee.

The plan is a bad idea for several reasons.

First off, I'm all for working less during the week. I recently wrote about how Marissa Mayer had advocated for a 130-hour workweek and said that is what created Google. The problem with working 70-80 hours in a week is that you probably accomplish about the same amount of work as someone who clocks in about 40 hours. I mentioned that my prime working hours are in the early morning. I swear I can accomplish twice as much when I work from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. because I'm fresh off a good night's sleep, my brain is thinking fast and smart, and I'm motivated.

That said, my problem with the Amazon workweek idea is that the core hours are designed more for those who want to attend meetings than those who want to accomplish more in a shorter period of time. If you know you have to be at work midday everyday, and that's when you're supposed to give Amazon your "best work" and collaborate, it removes the incentive to work hard in the early morning hours. Why not skip out of work in the morning? You know you have to be at your best midday. It defeats the intent behind working shorter hours, which is to use the best hours of the day to their fullest extent, take more breaks (which according to science makes you work smarter and faster), and not just to give people a free Friday.

My other issue is that the goal is not to shift people to part-time. That benefits the employer, not the employee. The 30-hour work week is not the name of a book for a reason. It means, if you work that much, you'll be paid that much. What might happen to those tech employees is that they will feel the need to pick up a second job and end up working even more hours. The 30-hours they spend doing projects for Amazon might not be their best work. By reducing the pay they don't solve any problems.

Let me explain what I really mean by working smarter and faster. I don't mean working less than 40 hours in a week. What I mean is that you can work 40 hours and receive the necessary compensation for your role, which is part of the daily working life in the U.S. right now and means you have full benefits and some guarantee of employment. By working smarter, you complete as much as the people who think you have to work 80 hours or 100 hours or even 130 hours in a week. You become more valuable to the employer, you're happier, you're productive. You're not paid less.

Moving people to part-time to give them more unpaid time off is not the answer. I believe those part-timers at Amazon should be moved to full-time, but give them the flexibility to work in the morning or at night. Trust them that they will use all of the 40 hours and do their best work, even though they might still skip out on Fridays.

The main point here is that you can accomplish a great amount of work in the normal period for work. Cranking out 130 hours doesn't help.

Published on: Aug 27, 2016