How to know if a company has work-life balance?

Dear Jane,

I am currently working in a job that requires me to work beyond the contracted hours every week. This is common in my industry where young workers are expected to work 90-100 hours per week or even more. Most of us do not leave the office or take a break at lunchtime. We’ve missed family and social time, sacrificing our relationships for work. It is generally believed that people who join this industry are aware of the hard grind and compensated well for their efforts.

Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is the life I deserve. I didn’t come into this job expecting 9 am – 5 pm, but I also didn’t expect consistent 9 am-5 am either. If I stay here for another 5 to 7 years I’ll easily draw a seven-figure salary and instantly become a member of the 0.1 percent. Based on my conversations with people within the industry, it’s not common practice to switch to a different organization in search for a better work-life balance. It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to realize that I want to remain in the field but switch to a less deadline-driven role.

I’m starting a job hunt, and I’m incredibly nervous about taking another position, only to end up in a similar plight. I’ve been invited to interview, and I’m not sure how to tell if a company really believes in work-life balance? I don’t mind working late now and then, but right now I’m looking for a company that helps employees achieve more than just career goals with proper work-life balance.

How to ask for better work life balance

A periodic late working, heading into the office on a Sunday morning, and going the extra mile to meet client’s expectations is the thing that has a monumental effect when you want to advance your career. In any case, this doesn’t nullify the other fact: You deserve to work for an organization that is genuinely focused on a work-life balance.

So, yes, you’ll work late one night. But, you’ll also need to have the option to request that your manager allows you to work remotely so that you can join your family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. And despite the fact that you don’t have kids yet, it very well may be in your mind someday, and you need a manager who wouldn’t fret when you need to leave right on time because of childcare problems.

A big part of achieving work-life balance is finding an organization that makes an effort to address this issue. So, how do you figure out during the interview process without making it sound like you’re looking for lame excuses to leave the office early? You’re going to have to be subtle.


Skim through your LinkedIn network and check whether you know anyone who knows any former employees. Reach out to see if the former employee would be willing to chat with you for 10 minutes.

To get a candid response, you should try and talk with the former employee in person or over the phone; most people are wary of badmouthing their former employer in writing. If you get hold of the person on phone, be sure to be upfront that you’re regarding this discussion as confidence, and then ask them to tell you about their experience.

Here are some questions you may consider:

  • How would you describe the company culture? Does the company encourage employees to take vacations? What about flextime? What are typical hours at the company like?
  • Do you think diversity & inclusion are an important part of the culture? Is the company focused on helping people from all walks of life succeed? Is the company family-friendly, or fostering a healthy work-life balance?
  • If you could have changed one thing about the company culture, what would that be?


Make a request to schedule your interview for early in the morning or later in the evening. Notice how many people are still at their desks. Is it 8 PM and everyone’s still working? Or, is it 8 PM and there are only a few employees left?

An organization that fosters work-life balance would be equipped with perks such as on-site daycare facilities for parents. There are a few other ways too. Does the company have a designed lactation room for breastfeeding moms that like a comfortable, quiet space?

Research the company. Do a little browsing on LinkedIn, Facebook, and maybe even check out a few employees’ social media account. You’re also likely to find honest reviews on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor. However, it’s good to take those reviews with a grain of salt. Once you look through the reviews, you can usually start to tell the difference between a person who intends for his input to be useful to a potential employee versus the one who has a lot of pent-up anger and frustration and has decided to put vitriol online.

Look for recurring themes. If more than enough reviews tell you to “stay away” that’s a red flag you would not want to ignore. Keep an eye out for details that give a glimpse of the company’s culture and how it supports work-life balance for its employees.


It’s perfectly okay to ask questions during your interview process that might lead the hiring panel to provide information about work-life balance.

What are the company’s policies on working remotely?

What do you love about working for this company?

If there’s one aspect of culture the company could improve upon, what would it be?

How would you describe the company culture?

If you ask these questions in a few different ways and never hear words like flexible, supportive, or empowering, that could be a big, red flag.

Finding a job that supports work-life balance can be challenging. Take time to find a position that ticks all the boxes, it’ll be well worth all the effort it took to get there.


Got something to ask? Send your questions to

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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