British workers spend an average of 3,515 full days at work over their lifetime, and creating a good balance between time allocated for work and leisure is important to employee wellbeing and happiness. The interview stage presents the perfect opportunity to find out about a company’s policies on work-life balance.
Making the decision to move jobs is an important one which shapes your career path. But how do you get the information you require about a company’s flexibility, culture, work environment and work-life balance? In the short time provided in an interview setting, here are the 10 best things you can ask your interviewer to get the information you need about a company’s work-life balance, and to ensure you are happy in your next role!
1. What would the typical day of somebody in my role look like?
Often, people are advised to ask their interviewer ‘what does your typical work day look like?’ However, you aren’t applying for their job! If you are meeting a Senior Manager or Director, for example, the chances are you will be joining at a lower level than them, which will inevitably mean a completely different workload.
It is much more worthwhile asking about what a workday looks like for someone in the role you are actually applying for. Asking an interviewer to walk you through your own typical working day will provide an insight into how much responsibility you will have and the extent to which your everyday life will need to adjust.
2. How do you measure goals, timelines and success?
Leaders who base their employees' success on their quality of work and give promotions and rewards based on performance, as opposed to time served and hours worked, are goal-oriented which is what you want from a leader! By asking this question, hopefully, your interviewer will be able to give you specific examples of somebody who has previously excelled in the role and how they have achieved their career goals.
It is also important to remember that once you have asked this question, it is most likely that your interviewer will turn the question back to you and will want to know how you have previously achieved your goals and how you have measured your success. When answering questions like this in an interview situation, remember to use the STAR method - the specific Situation you were in, a Task you were faced with, the behavioural Actions ‘you’ (not ‘we’) took, and the Results you achieved.
3. How do you set employees up for success?
Asking a question like this can reveal potential micromanaging. If your interviewer's answer suggests that you are expected to follow preset practices with little room for applying your own approach, this hints at a workplace that doesn’t allow you to work in the way that’s most productive for you.
On the other hand, this question can also reveal a well-balanced and open-minded work environment if it is clear that you will be given the tools, as well as the encouragement and support to succeed in the best way for you.
4. How have you found your own professional career development?
If your interviewer has been at the company for a while, perhaps even starting at the level you are applying for, they may be able to demonstrate how they have progressed through the ranks and succeeded. This can reveal how the company can support your professional development in terms of resources and training, steps and initiatives you are able to take to progress your own career, and can also show that people have chosen to stay and progress which demonstrates employee satisfaction and retention.
5. What is your company’s mission statement?
A company’s mission statement can reveal how the organisation values its employees. Often a company’s mission statement can be found online but this question is important in differentiating what it actually means. If the mission statement is focused solely on business goals as opposed to placing value on employees and relationships, it may be that the company is less likely to take care of their employees.
6. How do you incorporate employee feedback in the day-to-day operations of your company?
How a company listens to its employees is incredibly important, and also shows how much they value people. Find out if they hold employee forums, if they have a suggestion box, or if they hold open meetings with Managers and Directors, and ask what they do with the feedback they receive! You want to know that your opinion will be valued, including any views you have on work-life balance and support - employers who listen to and implement feedback to improve the day-to-day lives of their employees are those who care about their team.
7. What benefits do you have that are focused on work-life balance?
Many companies often shout about ‘flexible working arrangements’, but in reality, this can mean so many different things! Many companies are beginning to move away from simply flexible working, e.g. flexible lunch breaks or allowing employees to start or finish work an hour early or late, and moving towards a more agile working framework, which often includes individual laptops and the ability for employees to work remotely or from home.
It is also important to ask about welfare benefits - does the company have provisions in place for mental health in the workplace, or physical fitness allowances or perks? Asking these questions can indicate where and to what degree a company is focused on its employees’ well-being.
8. What provisions do you have in place for returning to work parents?
Following on from finding out the company’s policy on flexible and agile working arrangements, asking this question can provide a more accurate insight into the extent of agility the company really offers. The majority of UK workers consider flexibility and agility in their workplace as very important, and this is particularly true for new or returning to work parents.
So many businesses unwittingly neglect this employee group, but more often than not there may be the perfect candidate who just needs a couple of days working from home for a short while. If a company has provisions in place that demonstrate they are supporting and tapping into the returning to work parent workforce, it is a clear indication that they value their employees.
9. Does your company have a CSR policy?
Corporate social responsibility is a self-regulating business model that helps a company ensure they are socially accountable, and whether or not a company has a CSR policy can reveal how they place priorities outside of work responsibilities. Ask about whether they allow extra days annual leave for charity events or for volunteering, and find out if they have a corporate charity and what they do to support them - this can reveal a lot about a company!
10. What is your work environment and social culture like?
Finding out how employees engage with one another and whether the team you will be joining spends time together socially, particularly if there are company-arranged activities, will show you what kind of work environment you will be joining. Some organisations arrange lunchtime clubs and activities, offer team nights out and prizes as perks, and even take their employees away on trips, all of which show that an employer recognises the value of a good work-life balance for their employees.
Understanding a company’s policies and views on work-life balance is incredibly important when it comes to choosing a new role, and whether a company is right for you. Research has shown that almost one-third of UK employees feel that they don’t have a good work-life balance. But, by asking any of these key questions at the interview stage, not only are you demonstrating that you are taking the opportunity seriously, but you also get the chance to discover what the flexibility, culture, work environment and work-life balance is like before you consider accepting an offer!