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September 23, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

5 red flags an employer has terrible work-life balance


Employees today put a premium on good work-life balance, and as noted in ourĀ last blog, they rate it ahead of money, recognition and autonomy when defining career success. But many job-seekers avoid asking questions about work-life balance during the interview process for fear that they might seem lazy or selfish. As a job seeker, how can you learn which employers embrace a culture that balances work-life demands and which ones only claim to?

A little detective work and strategic research can go a long way in telling you which companies practice what they preach. Keep an eye out for these five red flags that indicate a company does not value work-life balance.

1. Bad reputation
The Internet is full of information and it’s not difficult to learn what current and past employees think of an employer. There are numerous sites that let employees rate their experiences at different companies, and it’s easy to research workplace conversations by searching hashtags on Twitter. Dig around and see what people are saying. Additionally, go through your network and see who has worked for or had experience with the company and give them a call or write an email; most people are happy to give their honest assessment.

2. No work-life info on the company website
Go through the company website and look at the hiring and career pages. You’ll want to find information on work-life balance policies. Companies that have this type of culture will typically share it in hopes of luring top talent. If there is no information about work-life benefits, it might be a red flag that few or none exist.

3. Unhappy atmosphere
When you communicate with the hiring managers, are they friendly and open or do they seem exhausted and unengaged? When you go in for an interview, do people seem to have a positive attitude, or are they just grumpy? How employees interact with you and one another may indicate whether they are happy or potentially overworked and unsatisfied.

4. Key cultural indicators
You must look at the big picture for clearer evidence of work-life balance. For example, does the company regularly have social events later in the evening? Happy hours at 9 p.m. are not compatible with the social lives of many people. Family picnics and bring-your-kid-to-work days are indicative of a culture that values life outside of work. Another hint: How many women are in leadership roles? The presence of female executives might indicate that a company values family and flexibility while promoting hard work.

5. Short answers to work-life balance questions
Of course you don’t want to lead by asking questions that only seem to benefit you, but there’s no reason you can’t ask some basic tactful questions about a company’s culture and work-life balance initiatives, especially on second and third interviews. If the interviewer provides only short answers or avoids these types of questions, it’s a big red flag that these policies don’t exist.

Not sure how to bring up work-life balance during an interview? Here are some tactful ways to ask and gain insight:

  • Can you describe a typical work week for this position?
  • What are the hours and can I expect to work on the weekends?
  • Will the people I work with have the same schedule, or do some have flexible work hours?
  • What is the corporate culture like?
  • What sort of social activities do employees participate in together?
  • Does anyone at the company telecommute?
  • (And, if you are so bold…) Does the company have any work-life balance policies or benefits?

One Comment

  1. tej / Sep 24 2014 12:41 pm

    Great post!! In addition to this, i would like to share an article http://goo.gl/LjImNX, where they had shared an interactive report about. How increase in working hours in OECD countries had affected individual work-life balance.

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