A common topic of discussion within the real estate industry is how the built environment can meet the changing demands of today’s society.

Adopting a service-oriented approach to property would be one way to do it. However, the industry should also embrace social demands from within, as UK lender Lloyds Bank has demonstrated by restructuring its top real estate finance role as a job share.

Madeleine McDougall, who has led the bank’s property division since 2017, will now co-head the business with Andy Hulme, former chief executive and head of fund for the Housing Growth Partnership, a joint initiative between Lloyds and Homes England.

McDougall and Hulme will both work three days a week, which will enable them to balance their professional commitments with family responsibilities.

One of the aspects that stands out in this job share is that flexibility for childcare is no longer being demanded exclusively by women. Both McDougall and Hulme have reduced their working hours to spend more time with their families in a clear example of how societal norms are evolving.

Childcare, however, is not the only motivation for flexible working. According to a 2017 study by consultancy EY and recruitment agency Timewise, only around three in 10 UK workers demanded flexibility for this reason. The most common motivations, the survey showed, were a wish to have greater control over work-life balance, followed by the general convenience of flexible working, including cutting down on commuting time.

Demand for flexible working is on the rise, but it is still underestimated by employers. CIPD, a professional body for HR and people development, has said that although 54 percent of UK workers already have some element of flexibility in their jobs, two out of three would like to work flexibly in a way that is not currently available. Employers meeting this demand will undoubtedly position themselves ahead of the competition when it comes to attracting and retaining the best and brightest staff.

Lloyds has shown it is possible to find solutions that offer flexibility, even for senior positions where traditional working patterns are still the norm. The decision to add a co-head has a cost implication, but the bank will be largely compensated by having two people, with different views, working collaboratively in a job that used to be carried out by one person.

The move helps to dispel myths in our corporate culture that conflate part-time working with a lack of ambition. No less importantly, it sets an example within real estate finance that could encourage diversity in an industry where women have a limited presence in the top roles.

The first senior role structured as a job share within Lloyds’ commercial banking division is a rare move within the property debt industry. It should prompt a bold discussion about what people are demanding at work and how meeting these demands can benefit both employers and employees.

As McDougall told Real Estate Capital, Lloyds has given a “powerful” message to the real estate sector. If the industry really wants to catch up with social demands, it must act now.

Email the author: alicia.v@peimedia.com