Job Searching for Work-Life Balance

I started to get the sense that work-life balance would be a problem at this company when I noticed that the girl setting up my interviews was sending emails and meeting invitations at odd hours. I had been interviewing for a role at a Very Cool Tech Company, and the scheduler was sending me messages at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm. There were subtle signals that the pressure to meet the expectations of the job would be large. And then, the kiss of death, the phrase that made the work-life balance question clear: "This is not a 40 hour a week position." It was clear that it would indeed be much more than that. 

There are times in your life when you might be really excited to dive into something and give it your all. There are some jobs that might not feel like work at all, where you'd be super happy to spend evenings, weekends, lunches, and early mornings. Writing this blog feels that way to me, it's less like work and more like fun. But when you're looking at a job to help fund your lifestyle or support you in your life outside of work, it's important to consider how that job will fit into your life as a whole. 

What's Important To You in Life? 

To get to the bottom of what kind of work-life balance you need and want, start with thinking about what's important to you in life. This is a big question, so I like to break it down into two different areas: 

     1. What do you value? How do you like spending your time and your energy? What do you wish you could spend more time on, and what would your ideal breakdown of your day or week look like?

     2. What are your goals? Are there specific things you want to accomplish this month, this year, by the time you're 30, in your career or life as a whole?

Asking yourself these questions can help get at the bottom of what work-life balance will look like to you, and how to evaluate a job or make a decision about a job with that in mind. 

Assess the role you're considering

First, observe where you can. In my case, I noticed the time of day that my point of contact was communicating with me, and looked at how quickly they were pushing the process and how much flexibility they provided in my options for interviewing. Read about the company on Glassdoor, and look at what people have to say about work-life balance or hours worked.

Then, ask questions. The best way to do this is through informational interviewing, or actually interviewing for a specific role. In either case, there are some questions that you can ask that will help get to the bottom of what work-life balance looks like for this company or this job. You might preface these questions by saying something like, "Work-life balance is important to me in my next role, and research supports the importance of rest on productivity." 

Questions to ask:

"Tell me about your life outside of work."

  • Watch for blank stares or a struggle with how to answer this question. People with great work-life balance know exactly what their priorities are outside of work. 

"Can you walk me through what your work schedule looked like last week? When did you arrive/leave, did you take work home with you?"

  • Ask for a specific example, like last week, yesterday, this week, not about general average of their work schedule. When people are asked to give specific information about yesterday or last week or today, you will get much richer and more accurate information about how they are actually working. 

"What was your last vacation?"

  • How long ago was it? How long were they gone for? How often do they go on vacation? 

"How would you change your work-life balance, and what do you think needs to happen to make that change?"

  • Again, people who have good work-life balance are aware of how they are making work fit into their life, and are looking for ways to fine-tune that. Watch for warning signs like references to a  company culture that doesn't support time away, or a boss who works too much and might be setting a poor example.  

"How does {this company} support work-life balance in staff?"

  • ou're looking for a culture of balance that values life outside of work and employees as people, not just as producers. 

A balanced life with work that excites you and a life outside of work that engages and refreshes you is important to a healthy and sustainable way of living. Work-Life balance might not be the first thing you assess or ask about, but it should be an important component. If you need help in making a decision on a job or assessing the work-life balance potential of your career path, just reach out. I'm here to help.