Think senior leaders can’t work part-time? Think again.

Experts

The foundation of success in a part-time role is the ability to decrease your hours while increasing your impact.
Senior leaders can shape and lead their teams in ways that make it unnecessary for them to be constantly present.

There’s a common belief that senior leadership roles are the hardest to do part-time. Many people will insist that it’s not even possible.

What if I told you the opposite were true?

The foundation of success in a part-time role is the ability to decrease your hours while increasing your impact. And really, who is in a better position to do this than a senior leader?

Think about the best executives you’ve worked with. Were they the ones deep in the weeds working crazy hours and doing all the things? Or were they the ones who set the vision, empowered their teams to deliver it, removed roadblocks and then got out of the way?

More than anyone else in an organisation, senior leaders can shape and lead their teams in ways that make it unnecessary for them to be constantly present.

There are many leaders out there proving this to be true. Timewise, a flexible work consultancy in the UK have recently published their annual Power List, profiling part-timers succeeding at the very highest levels.

And as the The 4 Day Week gains traction across the world, leaders in organisations like Microsoft and Unliver are proving that they, along with the rest of their people, can successfully work part-time.

Creating part-time roles at senior levels is not only perfectly possible, it’s also a smart strategy. One that can help you to stand out from your competitors in the tight talent market.

Hiring and retaining the best talent

Employers who create and recruit for full-time roles only, are missing out on a hidden talent pool of people who can’t or prefer not to work full-time. And this talent pool is larger than you might think. Recent ABS data shows that 30.2% of the Australian workforce currently work part-time hours. 

There’s a hugely diverse range of people who sit within this group including working parents, professionals studying postgraduate degrees, highly qualified immigrants on visas that limit their work hours, people looking to take a phased approach to retirement, and semi-professional athletes.

Creating more part-time roles can therefore have an immediate impact on an organisation’s ability to hire and retain the best and most diverse talent at all levels.

For this strategy to succeed, it is critical that it is led and role modelled from the top. It’s incredibly powerful for people in mid-level roles who currently work part-time, or wish to do so in future, to see that it is both possible and acceptable to continue to work part-time as they climb the career ladder. 

In a recent study by Chief Executive Women and Bain & Co every organisation interviewed said that flexibility is a critical component for employee retention, but that it is not enough for flexibility to be available – it must also be practiced at all levels. In short, if employees don’t see any senior leaders working part-time, they assume that working part-time is not encouraged for those who want to climb the leadership ranks.

Actively creating senior level part-time roles can therefore have a huge impact on the engagement and retention of this talent, as well as for the senior leaders themselves. 

Wellbeing and productivity

Our concept of success is so enmeshed with the idea that more input equals more output (more hours equal more success) that we don’t tend to connect part-time work with increased productivity.

Across the world’s richest countries though, higher productivity has been shown to correlate with lower working hours.

When people have more time to look after their health and wellbeing and spend time doing other things that enrich their lives, they are better able to manage work pressure and to focus and perform when they are at work.

Given that work pressure and performance expectations typically grow with increased seniority, part-time working is perhaps something we should encourage even more at senior levels rather than less.

It’s time to challenge the outdated view that part-time work isn’t possible or desirable at senior levels. Organisations who can shift their assumptions and their practices in this space will be well positioned to attract top talent and maximise their performance, now and into the future.


Belinda Morgan is an author, trainer, coach and speaker who helps people and organisations realise the many benefits of becoming truly flexible. Find out more at www.belindamorgan.com