One of the biggest problems these days is work life balance. Everyone complains about lack of it. Due to global dynamics you are always on toes. You may have less flexibility in directly seeking better work life balance. And people have strong notions about various companies. If you want to switch job looking for better work life balance, you need be sure. The problem is you may not have someone who worked in both the companies – your present company and the company you are considering. Even if you do, it may not be about the same team.
The difficult questions:
- Generic – Do you have generic factors for predicting and planning the work load in next job?
- Specific – In the job interview you can not demand the best work life balance. They could interpret that you just want to relax. Then what specific questions to ask around the job?
First, the generic factors:
The industry plays important role in deciding how busy you will be. In some, you will have time to plan your work. In many others there is much less time.
When I worked in industrial automation product R&D, it was organized much better. Industrial automation products need to last for 30-40 years in customer site. Its product development life cycle spans across 4-5 years. While work could be complex, there is some room for planning.
In contrast, automotive market, is lot more commoditized. The life cycle is much short for adapting your product for a car maker. for many customers, within one year from the start, one has to deliver.
Likewise, web development or other fast changing segments could leave you less room for planning.
While many people believe that some companies have better work life balance, there is some truth in that. It is due to multiple reasons. If a company is comfortable with lower margins, it could spend on more people and work could be less per person. However if a company is ambitious to stay number in profitability and top line, it will squeeze lot more from everyone.
One word of caution is – if you work for a laid-back company, you will develop such culture. This could affect your competitiveness in job market.
3. Org Structure and Culture
There are fancy organization structures. In complex structures, to get the same thing done, lot more work is required. Lot of energy goes in pushing the work, dealing with many managers and reports.
If you have an opportunity which has less bureaucracy in the company culture, it would be a good idea to accept the offer. Watch out for other factors I mentioned, though.
Very important factor in work life balance is the role. Critical role with lot of money at stake, you will be very busy. If your role is less critical and if there is room for longer response time, you can plan much better.
If you are in critical role for the biggest customer of your company, you are sure to have skewed work life balance. the largest customer will be seen with very high regard by your management. If you are in critical role, you are certain to get calls on week ends too.
Irrespective of the image of your company in job market, you will be a very busy person. I have seen that different roles/groups across same company have totally different pressure level.
The specific questions you may want to ask during the interview.
Just consider following questions for asking in the interview. May be, you could even find out about the industry specific factors from friends too.
- How many hours have the team members worked last week on average ?
- How many releases / customer deliveries happened from this team in last one week?
- What is the work from home policy? Is the nature of work allows work from home? How many in last week have worked from home?
- Overseas interactions across time zones. There are global meetings with people joining from far east, India, Europe and USA. Needless to say, it would affect your working time.
- Average time for delivery from the time customer request comes? Many times customer request comes with 3 hours deadline to finish. Then there are other scenarios where you have several months to deliver.
- Number of project reviews requiring attendance/inputs from your role.
I can explain the background of the questions above, if it is not clear.
Overall with the above considerations, you are good to have some prediction of your life in the job you are considering.