Ladder-climbing professionals across industries and business sectors have begun looking at the rung below and seeing it with a fresh set of eyes.

Choosing to pursue and take a lower position has always been frowned upon by recruiters and hiring executives alike; however, there are legitimate reasons to take a step back at any point, and position, on the corporate ladder.

Traditionally, working mothers—especially those with school-aged children or newborns—often willingly stepped into lower positions to provide themselves flexibility and reduced stress to juggle the demands of both work and family. No one questioned the validity or sanity of a woman who decided to shelf her high heels and houndstooth suit to don a more relaxed dress code for a company with flextime, understanding leaders, and a grateful workforce happy to have a manager who cares about their personal lives when she has one of her own.

However, it’s not only new mothers who are reevaluating the potential and possibilities of stepping back. Midlife career professionals, soon-to-be retirees, and even rising stars are reconsidering their place on the ladder.

What’s the appeal? Several benefits come to mind:

  • As previously stated, stress reduction is an attractive byproduct of taking on less responsibility or a role with reduced visibility.
  • More free time to pursue personal interests, such as advanced education, artistry, or a side hustle. Studies and surveys indicate workers are happier and more likely to be engaged during the day if they are allowed, and have time, to stretch their personal reach into the great unknown.
  • Physical and mental wellness. It goes without saying: less stress tends to result in a better chance of health and fitness because there is more time to work out; prepare delicious, wholesome meals; and get the rest a body needs to flourish.
  • Improved relationships. Think about it. All the time spent hobnobbing with the who’s who of Corporate Earth can be exhausting. Politics and bad sportsmanship aren’t only for the government and the major league. Not everyone is built for political position-jockeying, but doing a good job while staying below the radar can be done at any level.
  • Work from home. Yep, I said it. Read any business blog today and you’ll see large corporate conglomerates recalling workers back to the office. High rises and collegiate-style campuses stood empty and dormant during the pandemic. Now, executives and stockholders want a return on their real estate investments while hanging on to their local and state tax incentives for the properties they occupy.  Guess who doesn’t care about butts in seats? Consulting firms, small businesses, and even not-for-profit organizations are embracing the remote worker status. This strategy is winning them higher profile talent, burnt-out technology experts, and freedom-seeking professionals who just want to contribute to something bigger than themselves during the day so they can enjoy living a life of peace at night. The trade-off may be lower salary and a smaller title, but for some, it may be worth it.

Professional choices are as unique as the people making them. While we may be facing a recession and concerns are mounting about widespread layoffs, workers still have choices. Some of those options include the opportunity to take a step back and be blissfully underemployed.

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