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The pros and cons of a 30-hour work week

Mark Garrison Sep 13, 2016
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Full teams at Amazon are experimenting with the 30-hour work week.
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Amazon is trying an unusual experiment that’s raising questions about work-life balance.

A few of its teams are switching to 30-hour weeks, with less pay than full-time workers, but full benefits.

Flexible working arrangements where individual employees work fewer hours are nothing new. But what’s different here is that entire teams will be on 30-hour weeks, from the managers on down.

What could it mean if more companies try this kind of arrangement? We discussed this work model with Bob Sutton, a Stanford management professor who’s authored several books on workplace culture and bosses. 

Sutton on both the advantages and disadvantages of working less: 

The pros are pretty obvious in terms of being less exhausted, being able to tend to other things. The cons, in addition to the loss of money — and we can see this from research — is the status difference. So at a place like Amazon or any other tech company, any consulting firm, any law firm where you’ve got people who are working 60, 70 hours a week, and then you’ve got this group of people who are working 30 hours a week, the first challenge is, well, they might be looked down upon because they’re working less hard. And if you look at some of the research that’s been done about what happens when people work in places where they work a huge number of hours, they actually spend an incredible amount of time, frankly, just screwing around and socializing. But that face time gives them a kind of power that people who aren’t in the office so much lose.

Click the above audio player to hear the full interview. 

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