Finding work-life balance is an important factor when considering a new job. While it’s not always easy to ask about work-life balance in an interview, it’s worth taking the time to get a better understanding of the expectations before accepting a role. Doing so can help ensure that you don’t find yourself in an unsustainable work environment down the road.
Asking questions about work-life balance during your interview can give you insight into how flexible and accommodating your potential employer may be. In this article, we will discuss 12 work-life balance questions to consider asking on your next job interview.
What Is the Definition of Work-Life Balance?
Before we dive into the questions you could ask a potential employer during an interview, let’s talk about what work-life balance actually is.
Simply put, work-life balance is the ability to manage your work commitments and personal life in a way that allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s about having enough time for work, family, friends, leisure pursuits, and other activities important to you.
Effective employers typically encourage their employees to develop a healthy work-life balance because it may make them happier and more productive at work.
In a world where the majority of workers (77%) and especially millennials (84%) are feeling burned out due to stress, work-life balance has never been more critical.
Should You Ask About Work-Life Balance At All in Your Interview?
Many applicants feel reserved about asking questions with regards to work-life balance during the interview process, usually fearing coming off as ‘not committed enough’ to work.
But, the reality is that work-life balance is an important factor to consider in any job — and one you should feel comfortable exploring before accepting a role.
After all, work-life balance means different things to different people, so there’s no harm in asking questions about it during your job interview.
And trust us, only a hiring manager with toxic traits will take your questions as overly inquisitive, which you are best staying away from anyway.
You should be strategic about when and how to ask about the work-life balance though. Starting off from there directly may not be the wisest of decision, as you first want to focus on your personal qualities, value, and qualifications.
After the company is interested in you more, feel free to ask questions regarding the company’s culture, management style, and the job itself. This will give you a sense of work-life balance within the work environment, and how work is managed there.
How to Ask About Work-Life Balance in an Interview
Now, let’s talk about how actually to inquire about the work-life balance practices at your potential employer’s company in an interview.
First, determine what work-life balance means to you
Work-life balance is a term that can mean different things to different people. For some, balanced state of work and life may seem like having workdays no more than 8 hours; for others, it may mean to have flexibility in work hours.
To ask meaningful questions about work-life balance, you first need to ask yourself what work-life balance means to you and what would work for your lifestyle.
Some factors that influence the work-life balance for you may include:
- Family situation
- Your temperament and energy levels
- Special circumstances, including health conditions
Knowing your own boundaries and expectations helps you ask the right work-life balance questions that are tailored to your needs.
With that it mind, let’s review the 12 work-life balance questions you should ask in your interview to assess whether your potential job is a low-stress job.
1. What is a typical day like in this position?
This general, yet very directed question, of what a typical day looks like for an engineer in this position will give you an opportunity to both assess your future responsibilities in your role and what you can expect in terms of rigor, stress, and intensity at the workplace.
If the interviewer says something like “we work in a fast-paced environment”, “we work late nights at times”, or “long hours are common”, this may be a red flag indicating that you may be expected to have a large workload with longer hours.
In other cases, the interviewer may avoid talking directly about the workload and hours and may instead focus on some daily duties you may have. Try to ask follow-up questions and assess the amount of work you may be required to complete on a daily basis to understand the state of work-life balance at their workplace.
2. What are the hours like in this positions? Are employees required to work on weekends often?
This direct questions will demand a direct answer on the part of the interviewer. Yet, this is quite a normal ask and will not be viewed as overly inquisitive.
Compare the hours mentioned by the interviewer to the usual software engineer hours and remember that only occasional weekend work is considered normal for developers.
Keep in mind that interviewers may sometimes downplay the amount of hours and weekends you may be required to work, vaguely saying “weekend work and overtime is sometimes required”. In this case, use other questions and methods we describe later on in this article to assess the real workload at the workplace.
3. What is the company culture like? What makes your company culture unique?
It’s essential to assess a company’s culture in order to determine whether it values work-life balance.
As you interrogate the interviewer, watch for signs that this is important within their organization – such as allowing employees flexible hours or telecommuting. This could mean they prioritize maintaining a healthy work-life balance, thus making them a good choice in terms of WLB.
Inquiring about the company culture will also help you understand the respect for employees, receptiveness to feedback, work-related stress levels and work dynamics. These are also important factors in assessing the employer as a potential choice.
4. What do you do to support work-life balance? What benefits do you provide?
This is a great question to figure out the work-life balance policies in place for employees.
For instance, does the employer offer flextime, work-from-home days, access to a gym or healthcare benefits? What about vacation policies or parental leave?
These are important factors to consider when deciding if this workplace is right for you and your work-life balance goals.
If the hiring manager avoids questions about WLB and associated benefits, this might suggest that their company is not the ideal fit for you.
5. Do you provide remote work opportunities?
In the age of remote work, it’s essential to know a company’s stance on working from home on an occasional or regular basis.
Remote work can be an excellent way to create a flexible work schedule and ensure that work does not get in the way of other life commitments.
It’s also important to understand if the organization allows employees a work-from-home day when needed or encourages work-life balance in other ways.
This questions is especially useful if the job description does not specifically indicate the work-form-home policies and if remote work opportunities are important for you.
6. How do you measure success?
The way the management and company assesses success of the employees tells a lot about their priorities.
If the interviewer indicates that “successful” employees put a lot of hours into their work and stay focused on the work at all times, this is a clear sign that they are more focused on having high-performing machines rather than balanced employees.
In contrast, a company that takes work-life balance into consideration will usually measure success through work impact and quality, not the amount of time spent at work. Listening to the recruiter’s explanation can help you gauge if work-life balance is respected and how employees are being rewarded.
7. Why is this position open?
In order to gain insight into their employee satisfaction, be aware of answers that may be a front for “burnout” or “overwork.”
For instance, if they specify ‘She left to spend more time with her family’, it could potentially mean she was under immense pressure. Keep this in mind when evaluating the workplace environment.
On the other hand, if the answer is closer to ‘She’s been promoted within our organization’, it suggests that employees are given an opportunity to progress within the company and work-life balance may not be of concern.
8. What type of person would work best here?
Asking about the type of person that works best in this company can give you an idea about the stress levels associated with the position.
For instance, if the interviewer mentions that the company works best with driven people who work long hours, this may signal an environment focused on work to the detriment of work-life balance.
In contrast, if they emphasize employee happiness and other attributes as important qualities in a successful employee, this may indicate that work-life balance is prioritized.
9. How would you describe your management style?
With this question, you’ll get a better comprehension of the company’s leadership style. Listen for how they’re open to feedback and communication in their response. Keep an eye out for any examples shared about how the management team strives to keep things balanced and functioning optimally.
At the same time, pay attention to anything that might indicate that work-life balance is not a priority. If they speak of work as a priority over life outside work, then this may not be the work environment for you.
10. What do you enjoy most about working with this organization?
Again, listen for how the interviewer responds to this question. The person will usually concentrate their answer on what they experience or pay attention to the most, so use this to work out what kind of environment the organization promotes.
If they provide examples of work-life balance initiatives or of work culture that supports a healthy work-life balance, then this is a sign that work-life balance is taken seriously.
On the other hand, if they talk about work challenges or work accomplishments without mentioning work-life balance, this could suggest that work life balance is not a priority in the workplace.
11. How have you found your own professional career development?
If your interviewer has seen firsthand success from being with the company for a while, they are able to illustrate how their career trajectory unfolded.
This can be invaluable in providing insight into what resources and training you have access to as well as any initiatives that could help progress your own future. It is also a great indicator of employee satisfaction when people choose stay and advance through the ranks.
You can also obtain a lot of useful information from non-verbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, and facial mimics, which could convey the attitude of the interviewer to how the career development progresses in the company and the challenges associated with it.
12. What are your interests outside of the office?
This clever question can work wonders in getting an idea of the work-life balance situation from your interviewer. It is a great way to understand how work-life balance and work responsibilities coexist in everyday work life for long-term employees.
If the interviewer answers with activities and interests that are outside of work, then this is a sign that he or she has regular time to take on hobbies and other activities besides work.
On the other hand, if they talk mostly about work or work-related activities, this may be an indicator that work-life balance may be unhealthy in this workplace.
How Else Can You Assess a Company’s Work-Life Balance?
Besides asking questions in an interview, there are many other ways to assess an organization’s work-life balance practices in a direct and indirect way. Let’s talk about some of these.
1. Check Glassdoor ratings
Glassdoor has an online directory of most companies operating in the United States and some of the larger companies operating worldwide. Conveniently, Glassdoor offers a “feedback” section on each company’s page, as well as an overall work-life balance score based on the submissions on current and previous employees. This is an excellent tool to gather an overall outlook of work-life balance in the organization.
2. Job description
When you are evaluating a potential job, it is essential to look for warning signs that might suggest the position will demand too much of your time and energy. Most job descriptions are likely not going to be upfront about this; instead, there could be red flags such as phrases like “willingness to work outside of regular hours” or indications that the workplace is competitive and fast-paced. Pay close attention so you won’t end up sacrificing more personal time than expected!
3. Social media channels
Many social media channels and forums like Reddit and Blind contain a lot of useful discussions about company cultures of many specific organizations. This is a great way to get inside information from current or former employees about work-life balance and work culture in the organization.
4. Observe during an interview
Be observant during your interview with the company, if you are interviewing on-site. Pay attention to whether the employees look lively, vibrant, and energetic, or rather bored, stressed, and overworked. If a work-life balance is indeed in place, you should observe that the work environment has an air of calmness and an atmosphere of balanced energy in the office.
5. Talk to current employees
Utilize LinkedIn to initiate a conversation with current employees and ask questions about work-life balance. It’s even better if you can find people who work at the exact same department or team you are interviewing for. Learning first-hand about work-life balance from actual employees can be extremely valuable and insightful.
Ultimately, work-life balance is a personal preference and varies from individual to individual. Therefore, make sure to use the above assessment methods to determine if work-life balance is a priority in the organization and if it meets your work-life balance needs.
Why Is Work-Life Balance Important?
Work-life balance is one of the most important predictors of long-term job satisfaction, work productivity, and work-life satisfaction. It also helps to mitigate work stress levels and prevents burnout.
When work-life balance is not in place, it can lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. As work-life balance is a continuous process which includes various elements such as work hours, work-related stressors and work environment, it is important to take the time to assess these elements in order to ensure you have a work-life balance that is suitable to you.
The following elements are important implications of work-life balance:
According to Corporate Executive Board, who represent the majority of Fortune 500 companies, those workers who achieved a good balance between their home and work life exhibited 21% more productivity than those without such equilibrium.
This heightened level of engagement came from increased enthusiasm for their occupation and organization in which they worked. Interestingly enough employees that had intentions to stay with the same employer saw wellness as a major factor when considering whether or not to remain with said company.
2. Quality of life
Good work-life balance is not only important for productivity in the workplace, but it also helps to improve quality of life. When work consumes too much of your energy, it can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health. It can lead to stress, anxiety and depression, as well as a lack of work-life satisfaction.
Having work-life balance in place can help you to have more energy for family, friends and other leisure activities. It can also lead to improved work performance, work satisfaction and work motivation.
Poor work-life balance can lead to numerous health problems, including burnout, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure and depression. On the other hand, work-life balance can help to reduce stress levels.
Studies have shown that work-life balance can lead to increased life satisfaction and promote well-being.
Work-life balance plays an important role in work happiness. If work life is consuming too much of your energy, it can lead to work dissatisfaction, work burnout and work stress. On the other hand, work-life balance can help to enhance work happiness by reducing work stress and increasing work motivation and work satisfaction.
Overall, work-life balance is an important factor in work productivity, work quality of life, work health and work happiness. Assessing work-life balance during an interview is essential to determine if it meets your work-life balance needs and will help you make an informed decision about your work prospects.
What Is a Good Work-Life Balance for Software Engineers?
In general, software engineers are known to enjoy good work-life balance. Remote work possibilities, flexible hours, non-physical work, and optimal hours all make software engineering a balanced work-life space.
Still, work-life balance even within software engineering field largely depends on the location, organization, and company culture. As such, you should know what to bargain and watch out for during new job negotiations.
This is what you should expect from a regular software engineering job:
- Considerable pay – entry-level engineer salaries range from $75,000 to $130,000 per year while senior salaries are considerably higher.
- Benefits – work-sponsored healthcare, retirement savings plan contributions, work from home (in many cases) and flexible hours.
- Room for growth – with the right skills and passion to develop, many software engineering jobs open up opportunities for career progression.
- Work-life balance – work hours are usually eight to nine hours per day, with plenty of time to lead a relaxed lifestyle.
In addition to these, you should also look for work-life balance and work culture questions during your interview. These work-life balance questions can be framed to assess work-life balance while getting a better understanding of the work culture and job expectations.
When it comes to work-life balance questions, make sure you ask the right ones during an interview. Carefully consider the answers from potential employers and decide if the work-life balance offered meets your expectations.
Remember to look for details, such as flexibility in work hours and the availability of work-from-home options. Ultimately, work-life balance is essential to creating a positive work environment and it’s important to make sure it is a priority for the company you work with.
Asking work-life balance questions during an interview will help ensure that the job you eventually accept will work for your lifestyle. Good luck with your job search!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.