Anyone who has caregiver responsibilities for either a parent or child knows the angst of trying to juggle work obligations with personal duties.
The solution for many has been to work for “family-friendly” companies that tout telecommuting, flexible time off, accommodating bosses and maybe even concierge services to take care of your every need.
Unfortunately, many employees find out that the reality of what a company proclaims to offer and what actually happens are two different things. You may soon discover, for example, that on-site child care means letting your child sleep under your desk when you can’t get off work until late. Or flextime is offered only in rare instances, and your performance evaluation mentions your lack of commitment because you took time off to attend your child’s school play.
So, how do you know when a company is faking its flexibility and family-friendly vibe?
It takes some sleuthing abilities and time, but it will be well worth it to avoid jumping into a job that could further stress your personal and professional life. Here are some tips to avoid making a mistake:
- Look online. Check out Glassdoor to get a feel for what other employees are saying about the company. For example, Intuit has a review that reads: “Incredible place to work if you are looking for work/life balance.” That review also jibes with Intuit often being listed as a “best places to work” company by different sources such as Fortune . Use social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to also glean inside information about what it’s like to work for a company when you want more flextime. If employees are complaining about working long hours or having to cancel vacation for work obligations, it may be a tip that the company isn’t supportive of a personal life.
- Ask another employee about a “typical day.” Connect via social networks or talk to another employee when interviewing. If the employee talks about a rigid schedule, then it could mean hours are inflexible and the boss won’t welcome someone with family demands. Do employees get to work from home other than after hours? If they talk about getting boss emails at 3 a.m. or being called constantly while taking time off, this may indicate the company really doesn’t support work/family balance.
- Check out social events. Does the company hold events – such as holiday parties or picnics – that encourage employees to bring families? Are there photos on bulletin boards showing the children of employees sitting on Santa’s lap or enjoying a barbecue?
- Listen to the boss. Does he or she talk about his or her own family? If the boss doesn’t ask you about your family, casually bring up your own such as: “Starting at 9 a.m. would be great for me since I drop my son off at day care at 8 a.m….” Then carefully watch to see if the boss looks uncomfortable.
- Be observant. Do other employees or the boss have photos of their families near their workspaces? Does the company offer lactation rooms for nursing mothers or resource lists for daycare providers?
- Check the leadership ranks. How many women are holding high-level positions? Women are traditionally more likely to have experience in juggling work and family demands, so female leaders with children can indicate a more family-friendly company. Have any of the male leaders indicated they took family time off to help with a new baby or care for a parent?
- Ask about travel. Many employees have learned to combine business travel with personal time by taking the family along on trips. Is this something the company regards as worthwhile or does the boss frown at the thought of having your kids in the same hotel during a conference or client meeting?
- Look for policies in writing. It’s one thing for a hiring manager to claim the company is family friendly, but it can have more meaning if it’s included in the employee handbook. Is there anything written on the company website that shows a commitment to work/family balance? Companies that put such policies in writing or make them part of their mission statement are much more likely to ensure it truly is a part of the culture. For example, check out Zappos that promotes its family-friendly culture and benefits.
Sometimes you need a job so badly that you’re willing to take anything and don’t even inquire about issues such as flexibility or family-friendly benefits. But when you do have the ability to really consider a job, take the time ask such questions and do your homework so that you are ensured the company really walks the talk.