Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

Articles: Organizational Effectiveness Archives

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Survey: Senior Executives Seek Work-Life Flexibility

A mid-2006 survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) of 1,311 senior executives globally, mostly age 35-54, found a strong desire for more work-life flexibility for themselves. They (55%) went as far as to say they were likely to turn down a promotion if it threatened to reduce what balance they had currently.

Here are other key findings

  • Work-life balance considerations are critical to decisions to stay with or join a company said 87% of respondents.
  • While 50% had considered taking a sabbatical at some time, only 7% of their employers had sabbatical policies.
  • Work-life balance has worsened in the last five years for 46% of respondents.
  • Only 7.5% said their company had a program to improve work-life balance.


A "work-life balance program" can mean different things to different people. Remember given the survey population of age 35-54 executives, both male and female, we are not talking primarily about flex-time programs for parents with young children. I don't know of any professional firm that has surveyed this age category as a discrete group. My guess is that most of those senior and junior partners, managing directors, managers and counsel have bought into "the way things are" - like it or not - given an economic model based primarily on billable hours, short-term needs, and the goal of substantial annual increases in revenue and income. As if no alternative model is possible to achieve growth. And as if professional firms are so very different from other businesses in the private sector.

Senior vice president of global human resources at American Management Association Manny Avramadis observed a clear trend in the last five years of executives asking about work-life issues, a formerly taboo subject in those ranks. It's not unusual for candidates interviewing to ask about flexibility in scheduling. he reported. That is a good time to exert leverage; the supply of experienced executives in that age range is smaller than the cohort over 50. They are becoming more difficult to find and retain.

This means the winds of change are blowing. Employment retention experts advise that since one size does not fit all, companies should train their leaders both on the issues of flexibility and how to implement policies effectively. Given the need to address a range of issues and needs of people at various levels and age groups, firms should have a flexibility expert who can train all managers to treat senior executives as individuals and arrange schedules in ways that benefit both the individual and the firm.

Flexibility can be built into schedules with telecommuting, minimizing travel, vacation policies (some firms insist that executives and professionals take their vacation time) and sabbaticals, for example. In some cases, people can be offered a trade-off of some reduction in compensation in exchange for more personal time.

While there may be the wish to treat these findings as challenges only presented by a thriving economy, both demographics and the attitudes about life and work indicate a more permanent shift, certainly among the younger generations, but also increasingly among the Baby Boomers age 50 and over. Those organizations that devote the attention to get it right on flexibility will become the preferred destination for talented and needed executives and professionals who rightly insist on sanity in their lives.

Please send your comments my way, and contribute your thoughts on solutions.


© Phyllis Weiss Haserot 2006.