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Will the C-suite empty out in 2021?

January 22, 2021

As executives reevaluate their work–life priorities, a shake-up of the top corporate talent is likely.

Given the world-turned-upside-down year we just closed out, it is probably wise to steer clear of making predictions. But it can be hard to resist the temptation in January to submit to this traditional exercise of forecasting the future.

We all know that the pandemic has changed the world of work for the long term, but one aspect of that change that may be underappreciated right now is the number of senior executives who are likely to balk at the idea of going back to the office full time. Once most people have gotten the vaccine, and companies decide that they want their leaders back at headquarters, there is likely to be a test of wills. I’ve heard countless stories from executives this past year who have reconnected with their spouses and kids and are healthier because they have more control over their schedule to build in consistent exercise. Flexible working is working well for them.

CEOs may decide that they want their top team all together again, but some executives may resist: “Thanks, but if you want me on the team, I want to work at home more.” And who can blame them? Most senior jobs in big corporations have traditionally been tests of stamina, with long hours at the office and on planes — which, it turns out, might not be prerequisites for performing well, given reports on how productivity levels remained high even when many employees had to work from home because of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has made the notion of work–life balance no longer seem so unattainable (cue the chorus of ambitious execs who knew how unrealistic such a balance was in the past). The lines that separated clear lifestyle choices before — do you live to work, or do you work to live? — are now blurring.

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business. It was originally published here.