Amazon announced it will be piloting a 30-hour work week for some of its employees. The reason? To get more women in tech and increase diversity. It’s a smart move from a company trying to lure candidates in an increasingly competitive sector.
Almost one year after its workplace culture was described as “brutal,” “bruising” and “punishing” in a New York Times article, Amazon is trying a new tactic and implementing a 30-hour work week for some of its technical teams.
Those participating in the pilot program will receive the same benefits as full-time employees, but with a reduced salary. The program is starting small – only a few teams and managers – and as of now the company has no plans to scale the changes across the entire company, says a spokesperson.
The teams, which will work on tech products within the company’s human resources division, operate from 10am – 2pm, Monday through Thursday, with flexible hours throughout.
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth,” says a statement Amazon posted online for an informational seminar. “This initiative was created with Amazon’s diverse workforce in mind and the realisation that the traditional full-time schedule might not be a ‘one size fits all’ model.”
Although Amazon hasn’t said that this move is a response to the revelations in the New York Times piece, it’s a smart move from a recruitment and diversity perspective. The technology sector is traditionally dominated by men, and Amazon is no exception. Men compose 60 per cent of its workforce, along with 76 per cent of management positions.
“Amazon isn’t very good at promoting and keeping women, and the irony is that Amazon’s customer base is very diverse,” say Rita McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, in an article for The Washington Post. She goes on to say it’s an opportunity to tap into people that the company wouldn’t normally have access to “because of the way you structure your work week.”
It’s not just a good news for women in tech – it has broad appeal for anyone with obligations outside of work or who wants better work-life balance. Given Amazon’s status as a global business superpower, this structure could break some misconceptions about flexible work options. There is still some stigma attached to working ‘part time’ or ‘reduced hours’ for both men and women. If successful, similar programs like this could spread through a sector that already struggles to attract, retain and develop women.
It’s also indicative of labour shortages in STEM fields that are plaguing many countries. Here in Australia, jobs requiring STEM qualifications grew at twice the rate of other jobs, yet 44 per cent of workplaces requiring these skills have trouble finding candidates.
With women in tech outnumbered two to one in Australia, perhaps this is the one Amazon workplace policy that others should emulate.