The Lives of Executives: A Global Statistical Portrait
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What family responsibilities do executives have? Do they derive their identity more from their work or from their personal lives? What are the top challenges that executives face in managing work-life and what solutions do they employ most frequently? Do executives embrace work-life integration as a benefit to business? What are executive’s attitudes toward those who utilize work-life benefits?
My colleagues Jan Civian of WFD Consulting, Kathy Lingle of WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress, and I set out to answer these questions. We surveyed 2,312 employees from Brazil, China, India, the UK, Germany, and the US of whom 7% were executives. The answers tell us a lot about how executives regard work-life on a global basis and, in turn, how those attitudes drive their commitment to work-life benefits.
Here’s what we found. The numbers in parentheses, provided for comparison purposes, are the percentages for the full sample across all levels, including skilled labor, clerical, individual contributor professionals, first line supervisors, and middle managers. When we view executives globally, they have distinct differences from the typical portrait of U.S. executives.
Portrait of the Executives
Women are a more significant proportion of global executives than is typically thought. Executives are older than average and work long hours.
- 56% (50%) men, 44% women (50%)
- 31% (23%) are over 50 years old
- 48% (31%) work 45 or more hours a week
The Executive Family
Global executives have significant dependent care responsibilities, especially for an adult or senior, and their partners are typically also employed.
- 83% (77%) have a spouse or partner
- 18% (16%) of spouses and partners are not employed
- 66% (69%) of those spouses and partners who are employed are full time, 16% (10%) part time
- 73% (61%) have children
- 15% (27%) have children under 5, 77% (58%) have children between 5 and 17 years old, and 30% (35%) have children over 18
- 15% (17%) have grandchildren
- 59% (33%) have an adult or senior to whom they are providing dependent care
Work plays a larger role in the self-identity of executives.
- 53% (63%) agree that work is only a small part of who they are
- 57% (39%) agree that most of their interests are centered around work
- 63% (40%) agree that most personal or life goals are work-oriented
- 79% (64%) agree that their career is a major source of satisfaction
Personal and family life plays a smaller role in the self-identity of executives.
- 44% (36%) agree that personal/family life is only a small part of who they are
- 58% (68%) agree that most of their interests are centered around their personal and family lives
- 49% (60%) agree that most personal or life goals are centered outside of work
- 71% (77%) agree that their personal/family life is a major source of satisfaction
Top Five Most Significant Life Issues
The significance of work-life issues is similar for executives and all employees, although finding time to exercise and financial stress are greater for all employees.
- Time for family – 23% (22%)
- Establishing professional credibility – 15% (11%)
- Time to socialize – 14% (14%)
- Time to exercise – 14% (20%)
- Financial stress – 13% (23%)
The Top Five Most Valuable Programs, Policies, and Services Used by Executives to Manage Their Work and Personal Responsibilities
More executives take advantage of paid time off to care for sick relatives, while employees overall make greater use of flexible start and end times and time off on short notice.
- Flexible start/end times – 21% (34%)
- Paid time off for sick family member – 19% (14%)
- Health and wellness – 16% (17%)
- Telework – 13% (14%)
- Time off on short notice – 13% (22%)
The Business Case for Work-Life
A significant majority of executives believe that the business case for work-life has been made, although not quite to the degree of employees overall.
- Importance of work-life for recruiting top talent – 73% (81%)
- Importance of work-life for retaining top talent – 73% (85%)
- Importance of work-life for employee satisfaction – 80% (88%)
- Importance of work-life for employee productivity – 79% (87%)
Experience of Repercussions for Using Work-Life
More executives than employees overall have experienced or believe they would experience repercussions for their own use of work-life benefits.
- Be overtly or subtly discouraged from using such policies and programs – 56% (48%)
- Receive unfavorable job assignments – 64% (53%)
- Receive negative performance reviews – 55% (45%)
- Receive negative comments from co-workers – 63% (53%)
- Receive negative comments from supervisor – 59% (50%)
- Be excluded from social and business networks – 48% (38%)
- Be excluded from consideration for career-advancing assignments – 56% (47%)
- Be denied a promotion – 55% (47%)
- Have my commitment to my job questioned – 57% (49%)
Executives Beliefs About Those Who Use Work-Life
In similar proportion to all employees, many executives hold negative perceptions of those who prioritize their personal and family lives or take advantage of work-life benefits
- Men who are highly committed to their personal/family lives cannot be highly committed to work – 49% (45%)
- Women who are highly committed to their personal/family lives cannot be highly committed to work – 51% (48%)
- The ideal employee is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours – 68% (66%)
- Employees who use flexible work arrangements will not advance very far in this organization – 40% (43%)
- The most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments – 54% (47%)
Most executives believe that the business case for work-life has been made. Nevertheless, a greater percentage of executives believe that their use of work-life benefits has had negative impacts on their careers. Not surprisingly, and similar to all employees, executives often hold negative images of those who utilize work-life benefits. When it comes to support for work-life, executives have met the enemy and they are them.