The need for a flexible CEO

Recently, I spoke to Ashlee Borgkvist, a researcher at The University of Adelaide who is trying to understand why so many organisations are seeing low uptake of flexible work options, despite having the policies in place to enable them. While there is a great deal of support for the benefits of flexible work, or what we call at Diversity Inclusion ‘Future Work’, we spoke at length about the complex web of factors that discourage people from working more flexibly. We found ourselves continually circling back to one key factor that determined the success or failure of programs designed to encourage new ways of working, or more specifically one key person: the CEO.

Informal discouragement can exist in many forms, but the culture and the boundaries of acceptable behaviour within organisations are largely set by the senior leadership, and particularly CEO’s. If senior leaders are not using flexible arrangements, this sends the message that they are not acceptable to use. 

It is important for employees to hear, see, and feel within their organisations’ informal working culture, that those at the highest levels support flexibility both in theory and in practice. This provides a mandate that it is not only okay for all employees to use them, but that the organisation will not exclude employees that use flexible working, from promotion and progression opportunities. 

To encourage employees to take up flexibility, senior leaders need to be engaging in flexibility themselves, and making this visible to their employees.

This got me thinking: who are the CEO’s or outstanding business leaders in Australia that job share, work part time or apply flexible working to their job? If you know of any, we would love to create our own part time power rankings, and begin to increase the profile of senior leaders working flexibly.

Additionally, Ashlee is currently recruiting for her study, speaking with managers about their experiences managing flexible working arrangements. If you would like to contribute please get in touch with Ashlee at


Jordan Gabriels, Diversity Consultant at Diversity Inclusion

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