It's time for firms to wake up to the part-time brain drain

Ignoring the growing demand for more flexible senior roles is costing employers dearly in lost talent and experience, says Karen Mattison.

by Karen Mattison

All round the UK, employers large and small are losing talented people exactly at the point when they would traditionally step up to senior levels, because they need more flexible hours and can't get them.

We’re not just talking about women here. With ever-lengthening working lives, having kids is no longer the only key life stage that demands a different approach. Increasingly, people need to change their schedule to accommodate treatment for an illness or care for elderly parents, too.

Plus – whisper it – many want flexibility, just because. An estimated 8.7 million full time workers in the UK – accounting for around two in every five - actually want to work part time or from home more often. And the gender split is roughly 50:50.

Hankering to go part time doesn’t signal a loss of drive or ambition - in fact often quite the opposite. But there is a rising tide of demand for more flexible senior positions, yet no vacancies to speak of. Just 3% of all £20,000+ jobs that are advertised openly on the market currently offer part time hours. The inevitable result is that we continue to see talented and experienced people in their 30s and 40s walk away from their careers in droves. It’s bad for them and arguably worse for their employers who are losing huge swathes of what would otherwise be the coming generation of corporate leaders.

But there is another way. A few companies are trailblazing flexible working at the top level. Businesses that understand that success doesn’t depend on the amount of time spent behind a desk or in meetings, but on what is achieved.

Hence the ‘Power Part Time List’, now in its third year. 2015's list is a roll call of 50 men and women who work in seriously senior jobs, achieving incredible things - all on less than 5 full days a week. All of whom kick that ‘not ambitious’ myth into the dust.

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