So folks have been talking about work/life balance lately. Kris thinks HR being responsible for work/life balance is an outright lie. Our pal Chris Ferdinandi at Renegade HR thinks it's absolutely something HR can influence. Me? I'm in the Jack Welch camp and lean closer to my buddy Kris in that I don't see work/life balance as something that HR necessarily owns or that I influence. I see work/life balance as a choice.
- You can choose to be a workhorse
and grind away at all hours of the night because you want to and have
goals you're trying to achieve. Maybe you're trying to prove
something, or maybe you have no life and/or friends. Ha.
- You can also choose to ask questions during a job interview about the work environment to see if there is an expectation to grind, grind, grind and work your booty off because it's something that defines the industry or organization's culture.
- That being said, you can also choose to work for an organization where there's a culture that encourages greater work/life balance and has it institutionalized via employee programs and policies. What's valued in the organization and by its leaders? You can choose to ask questions to this effect.
- And, regardless of culture or organization, you can also make choices to find more balance for yourself. You can choose to say no. You can choose to put your foot down and
leave the office at 6pm nightly. And you can choose to put bookmarks around your workday so that you have more balance because that's something that you personally value. Similarly though, your company may make choices too – they may not promote you as quickly, or they may give you smaller raise in comparison to your colleagues who are working harder, or longer hours.
For me, it's all about choices – about the career path/industry you enter into, the culture of the organization you choose to work for, and the work habits you employ. It's up to us as individuals. But that's my personal belief. And as a recruiter… this can be tough. Obviously, work/life balance stirs up all sorts of issues. And of course, I get the question at least once a week from candidates…
What's the work/life balance like here?
So there's my personal belief. But I feel like it's a bit of a tricky
landscape to navigate when answering that question for candidates, especially because I look at the role of a
recruiter as a sales gig. It's not enough to find the right talent – you
have to continually attract talent and then close deals. And for me,
part of getting offer acceptances is ensuring that at every step of the
recruitment process, I’ve portrayed a peachy – but truthful and
realistic – picture of our organization. We have pizza and beer every
Thursday! It’s collegial! Lots of room for growth! Global opportunities!
I’m constantly in sell mode. So having to throw in that… Oh, but yes, a
lot of our people do work 50+ hours per week, are on their Blackberrys
all the time, and would give clients their left foot if asked for it.
Huh? What doesn’t belong in my peachy picture? So just how is one to answer the question of “What’s the work/life
balance like here?”
It's still a bit of a struggle for me whenever I get the work/life question in interviews – but I share my personal opinion first, that it’s
a choice that people make. And then I share that there isn’t a push from our management to
grind away, that it's not necessarily a mandated part of our culture, nor is it an expectation – but it’s a choice that many people make because they are
fully committed to, and truthfully, simply love, what they do. It’s a
choice that’s easy for them to make because the work is meaningful and
interesting, and so maybe yes, you do see people who regularly work 50+
hour work weeks and you can’t be surprised at all to get emails from
colleagues at 9pm in the evening. But again, it's a choice, and at least in our org, people work as they do because they love what
And for now, this approach to answering that question for candidates seems to be working for me. I feel comfortable with
that answer. But I can’t help but to question myself every so often and re-think if this is the right
approach, how candidates really receive my answer, or how others answer
So what’s the work/life balance like at your
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.