Written by Melissa Anzman
Another awesome topic from the Life After College survey!
The phrase, Flexible Work-Life Balance has not only become common place now, but is a “perk” that a lot of us are seeking in our jobs. More people than ever are looking for a career that fits in their life, instead of the other way around.
But how do you actually figure out if a new opportunity can provide you with the work/life balance you are desperately seeking?
How to Find Out About Work/Life Balance When Interviewing
1. What level are you going to be at?
While not a hard and fast rule, the bigger your team, the more difficult it is to work remotely… or work less hours. I’m not saying you have to put your aspirations to be a director, a vice president, or more on hold – but what you want to be responsible for in your role, does have an impact in your flexibility.
At some point in your career, you may hit the crossroad of two choices: flexibility or the title.
This can be especially true if you’re at a larger company. I don’t think it’s right or even necessary, but seeing your face and being able to step into your office becomes more important the higher you climb.
2. What will you be responsible for?
I remember an employee coming to me and asking if they could work a flexible work schedule (working remotely 3 days a week), and her main duty was to get signatures on proofs. Think about that – her daily job was mainly walking around, talking to people and getting them to sign-off. How could she do that from her home office?
There are just some roles, although fewer and fewer these days, that require you to be onsite and working during “normal” business hours. If you are in one of those roles, it doesn’t make much business sense for them to approve more balance.
Ok, now that we have all of the “you” questions asked, here’s what to look for in the interview process.
1. During the interview process, will you be meeting the key stakeholders in person?
If a prospective employer has key stakeholders in different locations, whether it be at their home offices or other satellite locations, there is a better chance that you will be able to do your job from an alternative environment. This indicates that the team is already working with people who they don’t get to visually see and interface all day with – which helps your cause.
2. Ask: “What are your work-day hours/expectations?”
It sounds like a simple question, but it can reveal so much about the option to have more balance. If they are clear about it being a “butt in seat” type of role – heed that warning.
One answer I was given when I was interviewing was, “While we all work remotely, you are expected to be at your desk during business hours. Your time is monitored by your chat presence.”
That’s a pretty clear sign that there isn’t any flexibility in how or when you deliver things.
3. Ask: “Is this department open to various work arrangements and flexible work options?” or “Are there people on this team who have alternative work schedules?”
This can be a bit of a tricky question – you don’t want to tip your hat or come across as trying to get out of work. But it’s important to ask this if you are seeking more balance.
Sometimes the company is open to it, but the department isn’t – which is why you want to phrase it specific to the role, not the company. If other people are already doing it, it will make your request much easier to understand and process.
4. Find out if effort or time is rewarded
The foundation of wanting to have some balance, is to be able to deliver your work in a reasonable amount of time so you can do something other than work. The only way to achieve this, if your effort and delivery is valued over the time you spend at work.
Traditionally, larger companies lean more towards the time end of this equation – whereas smaller companies may need you to wear various hats, so they value delivery. Either way, find out what the hiring manager values in this equation. And listen to his/her answer – if they come from a more traditional work environment and are essentially attached to their crackberry, they are going to expect that from you… which obviously won’t lead to much balance.
Some Things to Remember
- There are so many ways to create more balance in your work, be sure to try several of them before giving up.
- Working shorter hours, means you’ll have to learn how to work more efficiently – it takes time to learn how to make this work for you.
- Research work/life balance options before approaching the conversation. There are many different ways to create the work schedule that works for you – a 4/10 (four days a week, 10 hours each day – one day off); working remotely all or some days; and really whatever other arrangement you can think of. Consider how your absence will impact your colleagues, peers, clients, boss, and the overall organization, before you make your ask.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
What’s your burning question about creating a flexible work/life environment?
Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.