Amazon Peak: A Comprehensive Guide for New Associates

amazon warehouse associates
Amazon fulfillment center associates.

Amazon warehouse facilities get quite busy towards the end of the year. This period is referred to as peak in Amazon parlance.

Peak season happens during major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Peak can be quite hectic for associates who work in Amazon facilities as well as those in warehouse adjacent jobs such as Amazon Flex and DSP drivers.

amazon delivery van
Amazon delivery drivers are also affected by peak.

It is quite common for associates to get 50 to 60-hour weeks and 12-hour workdays during peak.

This happens when associates get consecutive weeks of mandatory extra time (MET), where workers are required to work overtime (usually an extra hour every work day with an additional 10 to 12-hour day each week).

Vacation is usually frozen in most Amazon facilities during the peak season. This is referred to as the blackout period. PTO and UPT can be requested as usual, however.

In some locations, associates only get a half-day off during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Peak season is a pretty grueling schedule and can be hard to newer employees since a lot of the work is repetitive and mind numbing while the hours are long.

In many locations, workers only get a day or two off per week during peak.

How Long Does Peak Last?

In most locations, the peak season starts at or before Thanksgiving and lasts through Christmas to early January.

This means that the start date could be anywhere from mid to late October to mid to late November, while the end date is anywhere from late December (e.g. December 26th) to New Year’s.

Peak season dates may also depend on the departments in the facility with Inbound starting earlier (around October) than Outbound (around Thanksgiving).

How to Survive Peak Season

  • Take your sleep schedule very seriously and try to catch as much sleep as you can. Rest is very important to your physical and mental health. Lack of proper sleep can also have your work performance greatly affected.
    • If you are having a hard time falling asleep when you get home from work, I recommend getting melatonin as it has helped me fall asleep easily. Remember to set your alarm clock so that you can wake up on time, though.

Carlyle melatonin is a good sleep aid.

  • Try meal prepping during your days off if you don’t get enough time to prepare your food during your work days. From my experience, meal prepping saves you a lot of time that can be used for other activities such as rest during peak season.
    • It also reduces the temptation for you to eat junk food or buy vending machine snacks at work which are not healthy and you waste a lot of money buying them.
    • My favorite meal to prepare during this season is burritos. They are easy to make, easy to store in the fridge and easy to pack for lunch.
  • For the Christmas peak season, make sure to do your shopping earlier as you will have little time to do so later. Any gift wrapping you need to do should be done before peak has started because it will be very stressful do so in the middle of peak, when you need all the rest you can get.
  • Let your family know beforehand that you are going to be very busy and might not have enough time for them as they’d hope. It is very common for associates to work on Christmas day during peak.
  • Pace yourself and take care not to overwork. Peak lasts for weeks and its very easy to burn out when you overstrain your body. Remember, it is just a job and Amazon doesn’t give incentive for people who work beyond the minimum required productivity rates.
  • Stay hydrated while working to improve and maintain your performance. Dehydration leads to exhaustion which in turn can slow down your performance.
    • Bring a bottle of water to work to be sipping from while working. Amazon requires water bottles to be transparent, but translucent bottles are also acceptable. For more effectiveness add ice cubes, especially when its hot.
  • During the peak season, you will be standing and/or walking most of your shifts for longer hours than usual. As a result your feet may get sore, especially if you are new. This is why having good work shoes is important for minimizing or eliminating foot pain after work.
    • Fortunately, Amazon has the Zappos at Work program, where they give workers $110 credit to get work shoes from the Zappos website.
    • Also remember to get shoe inserts to increase cushioning of your feet as standing for long periods reduces the comfort from your shoes’ insoles as they can get too compressed.
  • Stock up on your PTO and UPT before peak actually starts. You’re going to need them when you feel you need to take a break. Remember, VTO isn’t available in most locations during peak!
    • The maximum UPT you can get during the year is 80 hours so stockpile as much of it as you can.
  • If peak gets too stressful for you don’t be afraid to seek help. Amazon facilities have therapists on site and they can guide you through any difficulties you may experience during this period.
    • There’s also the employee assistance program (EAP) that you can call (free of charge) and they will provide confidential guidance and counseling. Their number is 1-833-721-2323. You can also call the employee resource center (ERC), whose phone number is at the bottom of your A to Z app, for help.
  • Listening to music or podcasts is a good way to get through the long hours you will be working during peak. Since the pandemic started, many Amazon locations have been allowing smartphones on the warehouse floor, so you may get away with listening to music as you work.

Beware that even though management might look the other way, headphones may not actually be allowed on the warehouse floor for safety reasons. So use with caution or ask other associates about it.

Peak Contests

As a means of motivating employees, Amazon sets up contests in some facilities where the top performing associates get rewards such as raffle tickets to win Kindles, Amazon Firesticks, Nintendo Switches, swag bucks, gift cards, TVs, lanyards and Peccy pins.

Tamazilla: An example of Amazon FC game.
Tamazilla: An example of Amazon FC game.

Associates participate in the contests through FC games, which are video games that can can be accessed through separate screens set up on stower and picker stations. Through these games, you can see how fast or slow your scan rate is in relation to other associates in the facility.

These contests are very common during peak season. You can use them to keep track of your rate. They also make time go by faster which helps in maintaining your sanity throughout the long hours.

The scan rate is not always accurate for these games since they start counting once you log in and pick a game, whereas rate counting at Amazon facilities starts once you clock in.

Take care not to hurt yourself when competing since sometimes people don’t win any of the promised prizes.

If you win a prize, you will be notified via snappy emails. Also note that any gifts you win are taxable.

Low Workload During Peak

Some facilities may offer VTO in some days of the peak season or the entire peak season.

Managers sometimes hire a lot of new seasonal associates, anticipating high production volume during peak – which does not materialize. In such situations, MET will usually be canceled.

Getting Excused From MET During Peak

If you have obligations that may keep you from doing MET, it is possible to get excused from it.

Such obligations include school, childcare and having other jobs (fulltime or part-time). You would need proof of these obligations, however, such a printout of your school schedule.

Talk to HR at your facility to find out more about this.

Peak Pay Raise

Many Amazon facilities have increased their hourly pay for associates by $2 to $3 an hour during peak.

Associates will continue to earn this amount until the end of peak season (mostly on January 1st).

In previous years, Amazon has awarded “Christmas bonuses” of about $300 for fulltime associates and $150 for part-time associates.

Some facilities also pay double time for any hours worked past 40 each week during certain months of the peak season – such as December – or for the entire peak season.

If you are getting a pay raise this holiday, it is advisable to save as much as you can since the pay bump won’t last long. You can use the money to pay down debts, fund your education or treat yourself after peak is over.

Peak Season Merch

Amazon awards merch to commemorate the peak season each year. The merch is almost always t-shirts but can also include lanyards, Peccy pins and socks.

Peak season t-shirt

Each year has a different theme at different facilities, e.g., it could be Jurassic Park, mountains or space. The merch is usually handed out during the holiday dinner which happens (in some facilities) around December.

After Peak Season

Work slows down quite a bit once peak season is over (around February to April) in most Amazon warehouses.

There’s a lot of VTO too during this time but work picks up a few weeks later – around March.

Seasonal associates (white badges) may be let go after peak or be converted to fulltime positions (blue badges) – depends on the facility.

Many fulltime associates also tend to quit during this time with plenty of recruitment activity going on to replace those who left.

Later, there will be intermittent periods of high and low work volume until the next peak.