Why senior roles need to be more flexible


Are we seeing a different set of rules emerge for senior leaders versus the rest of the workforce?
drawing of leaders standing in a grid
When flexible work is implemented well there is only upside.

Organisations across the globe are testing a range of approaches to flexible working. As this plays out are we seeing a different set of rules emerge for senior leaders versus the rest of the workforce?

Yes, but not necessarily in the way you might think. In some areas senior roles are actually becoming less flexible than others.

For example, Future Forum, a research group backed by Slack, has found that executives are more than twice as likely to want to get back to the office full time than their employees.

If it’s the preference of senior leaders to be in the office full-time why does this matter?

It’s about role modelling. It’s one thing for organisations to have great flexible working policies, but another thing entirely for employees to feel safe to take up the options available to them.

If a senior leader works from the office five days a week they send the message, however unintentionally, that this is what they would ideally like to see from others. 

For people in entry-level and mid-level roles to believe that it is possible to have a career path and progress to executive levels in an organisation while working flexibly, they need to see more people in senior roles doing so.

What about part-time work? Are we seeing more senior leaders take up this form of flexibility?

No we are not. There is still a prevailing view that senior roles simply can’t be done part-time. This perspective is not doing anyone any favours. It’s not helping the senior leaders who would like to work part-time, and it’s holding back progress for everyone else.

What’s in it for organisations to start creating more part-time roles at senior levels? 

Organisations across the globe have struggled for years to increase the ratio of women in senior and executive roles. Increasing the availability of flexible work options at this level could be the way we finally shift the dial. 

Whether we like it or not, women in most societies still shoulder the lion’s share of household and caring responsibilities, and therefore require flexible work options at higher rates than men.

And this isn’t just the right thing to do, there’s also a financial incentive. Research has established that female CEOs boost their companies’ market value by 5%, and that increasing the number of women in other key leadership positions by 10% or more, increases a company’s market value by 6.6%, or an average of $105 million.

What’s the downside for organisations that start making more senior roles more flexible?

When flexible work is implemented well there is only upside. Flexibility in all its forms is fast becoming an expectation of the workforce. The organisations who are willing to lead the way and prove they can effectively implement flexible work at all levels will attract and retain the best talent now and into the future. 

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