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Amazon To Experiment With Part-Time Tech Teams (usatoday.com) 111

Elizabeth Weise, reporting from USATODAY: In an effort to lure hard-to-hire tech workers and possibly recast its reputation as a harsh workplace, Amazon plans to pilot a program of part-time teams composed entirely of employees putting in 30-hour weeks. The Seattle company will test using entire teams of engineers and tech staff who will all work 30 hours a week, thus side-stepping many of the problems faced by part-time workers in a full-time environment. The pilot teams' core hours would be Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm, with flexible hours throughout the week. The 30-hour groups would receive the same benefits as 40-hour-a-week employees but less pay, Amazon said. The plan is smart from a recruiting standpoint and a unique strategy in the highly competitive tech world, said Kate Kennedy with the Society for Human Resource Management.
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Amazon To Experiment With Part-Time Tech Teams

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2016 @09:36AM (#52737647)
    I would love the option to work for 20 or 30 hours/week even for half the money. I've always felt like I had to choose between 40-50 hour weeks or nothing.
    • Hope this becomes a trend. I would love the option to work for 20 or 30 hours/week even for half the money. I've always felt like I had to choose between 40-50 hour weeks or nothing.

      Sounds like typical part-time software development work, the sort I had during most of my undergraduate and my graduate school days. Working 25-30 hours a week at real companies, albeit usually small ones, although my hours were somewhat dependent upon class schedules in undergraduate days.

      Its great Amazon is doing this but is it really something new and different in the "industry"?

  • I think it eliminates the chance of working for a lot of other jobs being 10am to 2pm only. If they moved this to different shifts outside of normal work hours I think it'd have a lot more applicants that already work another "day" job.
    • by Cowclops ( 630818 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @09:47AM (#52737683)

      I'm pretty sure their goal is to pressure people into actually working less hours and have a life outside of work (while maybe saving the company some money in the process), not trick people into working two 30 hour jobs a week. I could be wrong, but this seems to be a whole different concept from "I work at McDonalds in the morning and as a janitor at night and I hate my lif!"

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @10:28AM (#52737819) Journal
        It's not a scheme by a large evil corporate entity to stick it to the working man?

        What fun is that?

      • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @10:39AM (#52737873)

        This is what I think too. I have always worked in "normal" environments, but there are plenty of stories about people in tech companies getting worked 90+ hours a week simply because that's the culture. Microsoft in the early 90s was like this, every dotbomb SV startup in the late 90s too -- and it's getting repeated for this current tech bubble.

        I think part of it is companies self-selecting people who will put up with no life and love the idea of an "all inclusive" workplace. Not surprisingly, growing up and having real-life responsibilities like a family aren't compatible with this lifestyle long-term. Google provides 3 meals a day, concierge service, beanbag chairs...everything a recent grad needs to continue the college lifestyle. Amazon probably wants to try expanding out of the monoculture they have and see what happens when they don't burn people out. Might just be the effect of a mature company - Microsoft is still famously all-inclusive, but people have the option of going home at a reasonable time. They operate more on the academic model than the sweatshop model.

        The problem is going to come when the MBAs and management consultants pick up on this and pervert it into "oh look, Millennials don't want stable jobs. They prefer to string together 4 part-time gigs to get through life." Then it just becomes an excuse to hire part-timers exclusively.

      • Wouldn't it be sufficient in most American companies to simply actually have 40-hour work weeks, instead of those "40-hour work weeks"?
  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @09:42AM (#52737669)

    Do you just check out at 2PM, or are you obligated to stay behind and put in extra hours to get the project done? I am guessing they hope for the latter.

    • Well, 10-2 Monday->Thursday is only 16 hours a week, what they mean is that everyone has to be there during those hours, and then you can pick our own work hours for the other 14 hours you have to work. I.e. you could work 9-5, you could work 8-4, you could work 10-6, but you have to be there between 10 and 2 Monday to Thursday.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @04:05PM (#52739223) Homepage Journal

        I find it odd that they specify which days have core hours. I mean, an ideal 30-hour week for a lot of folks would be Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday so that they can have a break in the middle of the week. Or Tuesday through Friday, shifting Monday holidays to Tuesday. Or not having to work on the day when their kids have baseball/soccer/* games after school. It would make a lot more sense to say that you have to be there for those core hours on four days, without specifying which. It is not as though they're going to make use of the space on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday anyway.

        For that matter, I find it really weird that they would choose 30 hours and not 24. If they hired people for 24-hour weeks (3 days), then they could have one shift from Monday through Wednesday and a second shift from Thursday through Saturday (or alternating days if folks preferred that). That would mean that their facilities cost for the second set of employees would be almost zero (maintenance and power only), and those savings would probably make up for the extra benefits. So they would be able to increase their output by 20% by increasing their costs by about 20%, all while employing twice as many people and giving employees the shorter work weeks that many of them would prefer, rather than decreasing their output by 20% by decreasing their costs by much less than 20%.

        But maybe I've thought way too much about how to make part-time employment work at a tech company.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I find it odd that they specify which days have core hours. I mean, an ideal 30-hour week for a lot of folks would be Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday so that they can have a break in the middle of the week. Or Tuesday through Friday, shifting Monday holidays to Tuesday. Or not having to work on the day when their kids have baseball/soccer/* games after school. It would make a lot more sense to say that you have to be there for those core hours on four days, without specifying which. It is not as though they're going to make use of the space on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday anyway.

          You are missing the point of "core hours". The idea is that everyone on the team is in the office, and available during a pre-defined time. Meetings are scheduled only during those hours. Someone who needs to find you knows they can show up at your desk and you will be there. You will answer your phone during those hours. etc.

          Arrange the rest of your schedule as necessary, but be at your desk/available during the core hours.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            I understand the point of core hours perfectly. I don't understand the point of them being dictated from the top of the organization down. Realistically, until you have five people in the meeting, there's no chance of not being able to find a day when everyone can be there, and you shouldn't typically have that many people in a meeting unless it is either a team meeting or a broad cross-functional group meeting. Both of these should be repeating events. Decisions about which day to pick for team meetin

    • by swalve ( 1980968 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @11:05AM (#52737965)
      Properly managed companies don't have crunch times. Good employees get their shit done on time.
      • Properly managed companies don't have crunch times. Good employees get their shit done on time.

        Well, when a good employer does a proper job of estimating the work involved.

        I fortunately once had such an experience. I led a five person team on a 14 month project and we only had about two weeks of crunch, and it was relatively minor crunch. It was a small company and I manically kept developers focused on priority features. I did not allow my boss or the company owner to insert their ideas into the current tasks. Its not that their ideas were bad, its that they weren't contractual obligations. We we

    • Hourly is hourly. You don't pay them enough to care beyond their shift time. If you want workers who are dedicated beyond their scheduled time, you have to pay a salary and give them real benefits.
      • They are paid a salary, and they get the same benefits as a 40-hour-a-week employee. Just 75% of the salary. So, with benefits, they make more per hour.

        It's not a horrible idea. Although, at 40 hours a week, I already want to just do 10x4. The idea of doing a 10x3 is really appealing to me. 8x3 + 6 is a little less, but not horrible.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If they're dedicated beyond their scheduled time, they are most likely bug generators and are holding back the people actually trying to just get stuff done. The fact that working a lot of overtime is a way to get promoted at places like amazon is why their code is so horrendous. Their best developers are almost invariably the first to leave as soon as they're rid of their golden handcuffs.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @09:48AM (#52737685)

    Isn't Amazon one of the tech firms that famously burns people out working them 90+ hours a week? If so, it just sounds like they're doing an experiment to see if hiring more people but working them less produces better results (Hint, it does in non-dysfunctional workplaces.)

    • I'm more cynical. I think they are pulling a page from Walmart in an attempt to pay less in employee benefits and unemployment insurance. Just like the other companies that abuse part time status, people will be pressured into working more than part time off the books.

      Boss :"Sorry Bill, but we're going to have to let you go. You are the least productive team member."

      Bill: "But... but... they all work 50 hrs a week!"

      Boss: "Thats not what their time cards say. They are clearly working 30hrs a week, sam

      • Not sure it's possible to take Walmart work home with you. At least not the jobs they offer at part time hours. Management at store level and above is salaried.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      5 days on 2 days off is a joke. 2 days doesnt afford time to actually have a break and do something, or even start something - Saturday = doing all the stuff you cant do during the week because work. Sunday, bah why bother - you cant get away anywhere because you're back to work the next morning.

      3 consultive days off, time to get stuff done, time to go somewhere, time to start something and maybe finish it - or make some progress on it, time to feel like you've had a break.

      In tech at least one could argue t

    • If so, it just sounds like they're doing an experiment to see if hiring more people but working them less produces better results (Hint, it does in non-dysfunctional workplaces.)

      Actually, at least to a point, hiring the same number of people but working them less produces better results.

      That's how we got the 40-hour work-week to begin with. It's generally assumed that time working has decreased over the centuries, but that isn't quite true [mit.edu]. Medieval farmers, laborers, and craftsmen did work long days (perhaps 9-12 hours), but winter conditions and lack of light with short days meant that these long days were only for short segments of the year. Yes, during planting and harvest

      • The part you miss is Ford fired many of his old workers and hired the best available at his better rate.

        It wasn't all the same workers being more productive.

        Still, you are right about working too many hours and losing productivity. I've seen many that were net negative and couldn't see a way out.

      • I once worked at a company that's normal schedule was 9 hours a day Monday through Thursday and 4 hours Friday morning.

        Absenteeism was lower and management happy with these and other metrics. People naturally scheduled offsite things like doctor's appointments for Friday afternoons. But more often they just started their weekend early. People were overwhelmingly happy with the schedule.

        Alas California put an end to this. Employees apparently don't have the authority to move a non-overtime hour from Fr
        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          Sounds like they were ahead of their time. That must have been more than seven years ago.

          California employment law changed in 2009 to explicitly allow what they call an "alternative workweek schedule" (Title 8, Section 11170, part 5 [ca.gov]). That allows employees to work up to 10 hours per day without overtime as long as your total hours don't exceed 40 per week and as long as it doesn't result in any shifts less than four hours long.

          There are specific rules and exceptions, of course:

          • The workers have to vote
    • As a senior multi-language full stack dev, I have talked to Amazon before. The reason I laugh and hang up on their recruiters that cold call me is because they are dicks, not because the money is bad, or even the hours being uneven. They have a lot of people, like MS did 15 years back, who are convinced that because they work for a company that is currently doing well, that they are 'the shit' and anyone else is garbage. They earned the nickname 'Am-holes' for a reason.

      Rather than trying to fire off the
  • If you don't fill the quota numbers, you still work 60 hours a week just for less pay.

    Would you prefer to go back to Starbucks Mr. 40-something white male?

    • Ummm, Yes!!, I would. Only difference I would see is that there would be less stress at the Starbucks. After the hours worked the pay rate would even out. Free coffee is a perk offered by both, but I am thinking Starbucks has better quality blends. So, if it came to life vs. job.... which would you prefer?
      • I currently work 20 hours a week at the local university. Dell offered me the same basic hourly rate to "test" their cr*ppy outsourced server code, but I passed at that opportunity.

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @10:19AM (#52737775)

    I'm sure a large company would love to hire people for 30 hours or less a week, thus dodging any requirement to give them full-time benefits.

    <reads rest of summary>

    The 30-hour groups would receive the same benefits as 40-hour-a-week employees but less pay, Amazon said.

    ...hmm. Now I'm intrigued. Count me among the group that would happily accept a 25% pay cut for a guaranteed cap at 30 hours per week, if I didn't have to give up benefits.

    Actually, given the cost of benefits, the pay cut would probably have to be more than that, because the cost of benefits is mostly constant. If your 40-hour week earns you $100K/yr take-home, and your benefits cost another $50K, Amazon would want to pay $150K * 0.75 for three-quarters of the work, or $112.5K, of which you'd see $62.5K -- a 37.5% cut in take-home pay. But I still might consider it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Count me among the group that would happily accept a 25% pay cut for a guaranteed cap at 30 hours per week, if I didn't have to give up benefits.

      My wife works for a European based company. They have ingrained in their culture no more than a 40 hour workweek. This would work well for her company.

      Amazon and the large tech company I work for - this would NEVER work and only cause more problems than help. Upper management would get the good publicity of out it, middle management would use it as a means to cut costs, and lowest management would inevitably end up dumping the extra workload on existing full timers who aren't subject to the hard cap. C

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        It is a lot easier if you make it a per-team plan rather than a per-employee plan. Hire people into specific parts of the company with the understanding that those entire teams will work the alternative schedule. If someone wants to work a normal schedule, put that person on a different team that works a normal schedule.

    • by lxw56 ( 827351 )
      >A 37.5% cut in take-home pay If you're in the 25% tax bracket plus 4% state tax, you're probably going from, ballpark, 81k to 54k takehome - a 33% reduction. 21k per year ish.
    • ...let me amend that to "I'd happily accept a 25% pay cut for a 30-hour work week, but not at Amazon."

      I could possibly be earning more money working somewhere else if I were willing to put up with 24/7 on-call. Not interested. Not interested in the quality-of-life sacrifice, and not interested in helping perpetuate the myth that you can do that to people without impairing the work they do during "normal hours".

      I could definitely be earning more money working 60-80 hour weeks for a nominally "full-time" posi

  • sacré bleu! 30 heures? Zees is full-time, no?

  • How much of a shit do you have to be to spin part-timer exploitation as a move to help the workers? All this shows is that you think of even your management as peons unworthy of benefits.
    • Wait, fuck, disregard. I can't read.
      • by bfootdav ( 18971 )

        Yes you can read -- between the lines. Remember, Amazon is famously anti-union. Do you think they don't have some kind of ulterior motive here? Save money, lower/eliminate benefits eventually, make even the "skilled" employees interchangeable and easily replaceable. Being at the very bottom rung of the economic ladder in America, it's nice to see that the upper middle-class is finally starting to get a taste of what's happening to everyone else.

        Sorry for the early morning cynicism. From the bottom we're all

  • I am sure this has nothing to do with it...... But, if your employee is not full time, there is no obligation to offer health insurance, vacation, or sick time as large companies currently need to do.
    Seems like Amazon would save a ton of money by having everyone move to "part time".

    • Keeping core healthcare and 401k match benefits and cutting back vacation pay and some of the other soft benefits is pretty much a win-win for everybody, provided you can find enough additional employees and not just have existing staff elect to drop down to 30h.

      Personally, I am a big fan of the 4-9-4 workweek, with the half-day Friday as a work-from-home (or somewhere) day. But, we don't have kids, so my needs are different.

  • It'll be like Uber for Amazon tech teams!

  • Unless they readjust pay to offset the reduced hours, it's still a wash.

    Then again, this is Amazon, where backstabbing is encouraged.

  • They're doing it so they don't have to pay health insurance and other benefits. This is truly shitty, but hey, people are stupid, and I'm sure they'll have plenty of suckers willing to bust their hump for them.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How do so many of you not even finish the summary? I get the difficulty of clicking to the article, but stay you missed was only 2 sentences away.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You didn't even read the summary. It stated they "would receive the same benefits as 40-hour-a-week employees."

      The problem is that they're going to require the employees put in sixty hours minimum for less pay. For some people, that's better than the usual eighty hour a week demand from Amazon, but it still isn't honest of them. I know when my roommate got a part time job there, they told her she would only be required to work every other week in her UX position, and that is what she wanted since she wor

  • It's not the health benefits. They've already said they'd give them those. But in every IT job I know of companies work you like a dog. Usually low level hourly work goes to contractors or outsources so companies can treat those employees like crap w/o having to admit the fact. Maybe this is just to get some good press? Or maybe this lets them pay people for 30 that they give the usual 60/hours of work to.
  • FWIW I am in a "tech job" and I went from 40 to 30 hours a week just before our 2nd child was born, so that was over 18 years ago. Loved it so much I stayed at that level, even as she got older. And I always thought that my employers get the *best* 30 hours of my week, not the hours spent hanging in the coffee room on Friday afternoon!

  • Unless Amazon also changes their culture of overwork, those "30-hour" weeks are rapidly going to become 50 hour weeks, the same way "40-hour" weeks became 60-hour weeks. Rather than gimmicks, I'd rather just have an employer that was honest and upfront about what is expected, with competent enough project management to meet that expectation, from both sides.

  • I haven't applied to Amazon though I have applied to a lot of other major employers in my area. What is the most common response? Nothing at all. Not even a form rejection letter, just nothing - drawn out over a long time.

    It seems the majority of employers in our country are reliant on various shitty HR algorithms to evaluate resumes en masse, and most often the employers don't know shit about how those algorithms work. The employers then congratulate themselves about how many resumes they were able to avoid reading, and then they get stuck with a thoroughly illogical collection of resumes written by people who happened to match the correct combination of keywords (which were often not included in the job posting).

    If they would actually have human beings read the resumes, they would find hiring gets a lot easier.
    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      This has been my experience as well. When I've been able to identify and directly contact the actual hiring manager, they seem delighted to talk to me and always lament the complete lack of qualified applicants (none of them ever got my resume passed to them from HR). So far I've ended up turning down most of these offers, but you have to wonder how many other qualified resumes the hiring manager never even sees.

      Any communications with HR, even if addressed to a specific person, are just blackholed. I have

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's why currently we are paid to work 40 hours but are expected to do 60 or 80. This is just a ruse they are trying to pay people less for the same amount of work.

  • I can tell how this one is going to go down.

    Amazon: Erm, you don't quite qualify for one of our full-time positions, but we have a new part-time program. Unlike most part-time work, it is 30 hours and not twenty, aaaaand we expect you to go the extra mile and stay late sometimes.

    Job-Seeker: So basically, work 40 hours and get paid for 20, without benefits or any expectation of future employment?

    Amazon: (Sadistic Chuckle) Not officially, but that's what you'll end up doing. Now, do you want to advance your c

  • Look at the core hours: 10-2 when the kids are in school. This is obviously an attempt to improve their gender equality numbers.

    Good idea if it works for them though.

  • Echoing some of the other comments .. once I read this story 1) As everyone else knows.. oh yes we have 40 hour a week IT jobs... when is the last time you had a consistent 40 hours? so they're saying hmm we'll pay them for 30 and get the same hours out of them 2) Again - cutting other key benefits such as health insurance - employer provided ones that is ... I am sure they won't be equal to other works -- be it options or perks etc. What companies say and what happens in reality I'm sure are differe
  • Just like full timers are not checking out after 40hrs, why would these part timers be checking out after 30? Unless of course there is a new policy requiring overtime pay so a part timer working 40 hrs get 30+1.5*10 = 45hrs worth of pay. All full timers will want to become part timers! :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Amazon is interested in the results of the Swedish experiments with the 30 hour work week from last year. Apparently humans are more productive when they feel rested and secure, or at least when they don't feel like they're trading their lives with their families and friends for depreciating income.

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