Negotiating a work-life balance
February 25, 2010 8:54 PM   Subscribe

What are the things to negotiate/discuss prior to taking a new job to ensure a work-life balance particularly as a new parent?

For the past 4 years I have had a staid, predictable, low-stress job that leaves me with a lot of mental and physical energy to devote to life outside the office. In the time that I've been at this job I met my husband, got married, and had a baby.

I leave work at 5pm and almost never have to think about my job until I walk in the door at 8:30 the next morning. However, I'm bored to tears at this job and am tentatively venturing into the job market to see what else is out there.

I have an interview tomorrow for a job that seems pretty awesome in many ways. It would be interesting, challenging, fulfilling, and satisfying if everything is as it seems and I think I'd be really good at it. But now that I've had a chance to experience a full life outside the office, I'm a little worried about getting sucked in to a job that demands everything of me. Are there things I should be negotiating or considering when talking with them? How is looking for a job different when you have a family as opposed to when you're single and childless?

Prior to this, I'd always looked for a new job based on what I wanted to be doing while looking for a good salary but it seems like more is at stake now and the needs of my family also need to be considered. I'd like some help in figuring out what those considerations might be: flex-time options and telecommuting come to mind but what else is there to think about? Are there things I'm not thinking about that would impact our child (they don't have child care options, for example)?

Since my husband is a freelancer, I carry the benefits for him, our 20-month old daughter, and me so obviously I need to ensure that's adequate if I change jobs but what specifically is the most important (health insurance, retirement accounts, vacation/sick leave, other) for family stability? (This is in California, if it make a difference).

What do you wish you had negotiated in your current job to allow you to maintain a happy and healthy family life outside your work?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, work life balance is very much ingrained in the culture of the company or department and there is little to negotiate. The best thing you can do is just try to get an honest assessment of what hours people are actually working and how you would feel about doing that. See if there's a way for you to have some time chatting with people who are in the role you're interviewing for or similar, to get a candid opinion. Or, take a semi-crazy-sounding tip I learned from AskMeFi -- sit in the parking lot or across from the building entrance around 5 and see if and how many people are leaving.
posted by telegraph at 8:59 PM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

It is very difficult to find a job that is both a) interesting, challenging, fulfilling, and satisfying and b) something you can just stop thinking about between 5pm and 8:30am. I think you're going to have to choose which is more important to you.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:11 PM on February 25, 2010

Echoing telegraph that this appears to be a company culture sort of thing.

One thing you could do is ask how many people there have children. Once you hit a critical mass of thirty-somethings with kids companies tend to mellow out considerably.

I also like the idea of checking out the parking lot, both at 6pm and on weekends.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:41 PM on February 25, 2010

You could ask something along the lines of "How does this company promote a healthy work-life balance for its employees?" If a company has a good work-life culture, then they will probably be eager to brag about it.

Once you're at the appropriate stage for negotiating this stuff, I would ask about the possibility of working from home one or two days per week, and/or flexible hours. And find out the minimum number of hours you need to work to qualify for benefits, if you're at all thinking about going to part-time someday. Also don't be afraid to ask how much the health insurance premiums for your dependents will cost, as some plans are totally not family-friendly and you can end up paying $500+/month for such things, esp. at a small company.
posted by nowmorethannever at 10:57 PM on February 25, 2010

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