When Tops Where: Why Inflexible Organizations Risk Losing Women

Professionally dressed women in a grey trench coat with her back to the camera walking away Image: Pexels/Ono Kosuki

More women are leaving jobs due to lack of flexibility, not location

A new report from Deloitte reveals that inflexible work hours are driving more women to leave their jobs than office location policies.

Inflexible organizations risk losing talented women

The 2023 Women @ Work: A Global Outlook report surveyed nearly 11,000 professional women across 46 countries. It found that lack of flexibility around working hours is one of the top three reasons women cite for voluntarily leaving their employer in the past year.

In fact, more women globally left their jobs in 2022 due to inflexible hours than left due to inflexible location policies.

This highlights an important shift in what women value from employers in the wake of COVID-19. While the option to work remotely is still desired by many, schedule flexibility is even more important.

Yet most companies are not meeting this demand. Less than 25% of women surveyed said they currently have a high degree of flexibility over when and where they work.

Even more concerning:

  • 97% of women believe asking for flexible hours could hurt their promotion opportunities
  • And 95% feel that even if they do get flexibility, their workload won’t be adjusted fairly

The result? Talented women end up leaving their jobs instead of trying to make flexibility work where they are.

How allies can help

This is where allies in the workplace can make a difference. Both male and female allies should support women in requesting flexibility without fear of reprisals. They can collaborate to ensure performance reviews and promotion criteria focus on outcomes rather than face time.

Allies can also take steps to monitor work distribution on flexible teams to prevent inequitable burdens on women. By speaking up when they observe flexibility stigma and advocating for more empathetic policies, allies can drive meaningful culture change at work.

Management needs to step up

If companies want to attract and retain more female employees, they need to take concrete steps to offer more flexibility without stigma or career penalties. Things like core hours, meeting-free blocks of time, and deadline-oriented rather than hour-oriented schedules can make a big difference.

Organizations need to set clear expectations around role scope and provide managers training on leading dispersed teams. Frontline managers should be trained on how to equitably accommodate flexible schedules and adjust workloads. Otherwise, flexibility simply becomes extra unseen and unpaid work for women trying to balance careers and other responsibilities. With consistent implementation, flex policies can benefit both employees and employers.

The Deloitte data shows women are taking action with their feet when employers fail to provide real flexibility.

The mass exodus of women from the workforce is a wake-up call to business leaders. Supporting work-life balance through flexible hours and hybrid arrangements needs to be a top priority. Otherwise, inflexible environments will continue losing top female talent to more accommodating competitors. Smart companies will recognize this driver of attrition and take steps to provide the adaptable, empathetic work culture women are demanding.

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Image: Pexels/Ono Kosuki