Gen Z shares 5 red flags that could mean an employer doesn't care about work-life balance
- Some Gen Zers fear that asking about work-life balance in interviews could harm their job prospects.
- Instead, some are looking for "red flags" to determine whether potential employers value balance.
Many Gen Zers are looking for jobs that give them purpose, and some aren't willing to sacrifice good pay, flexibility, or a healthy work-life balance in exchange.
While work-life balance looks different for everyone and can vary by industry, four young professionals told Insider they're prioritizing jobs that allow them to pursue hobbies, side hustles, and activities outside the nine-to-five window.
"Gen Z are learning to be more comfortable when it comes to advocating for themselves because of all the examples they've seen of it online," Alexandria Ang, a 22-year-old communications specialist, previously told Insider.
Preston Jacobson, a 24-year-old working in retail management, said he left his job in February because it lacked a proper work-life balance. Now, as he looks for a new role, he's hunting for one that will give him more ownership over his time.
"To me, work-life balance is defined as being able to determine your success based on achieving results within a transparent growth system, while maintaining a healthy social and family life," Jacobson said. He added that last-minute work travel, weekends on call, and confusing success metrics forced him to neglect his social life in pursuit of a larger paycheck.
Jacobson's desire for a day-to-day existence that allows for sufficient time away from work isn't unusual, of course, though some Gen Zers have said they don't want to be seen as lazy or uncommitted to their roles.
Instead of explicitly asking questions about a company's commitment to work-life balance in interviews, some Gen Z job seekers are looking out for certain red flags to determine whether it's a priority for employers. Here are their five biggest warning signs:
1. 'We want someone who can work hard and give their all'
When Jorge Alvarez asked some potential employers about their policies on work-life balance, several of the people conducting interviews went on tangents along the lines of needing someone who could "work hard and give their all," he said. The answers signaled to Alvarez that he and the companies weren't aligned on values and expectations.
"I truly want to embody and practice the 'I work-to-live, not live-to-work' mentality," Alvarez, a 24-year-old entrepreneur looking for a role in philanthropy or social impact, said. That work-to-live mindset "involves doing the things I really love, which is not just my job."
2. Small teams with big responsibilities
In interviews, Alvarez inquires about team sizes and the scope of the projects teams work on. He asks questions like, "Who else is on the team?" and, "How will I be engaging with them in this position?" to determine the level of support.
A smaller team with large projects might indicate a heavy workload, late nights, or weekend work that isn't in the posted job description, Alvarez said.
3. Unclear, vague, or changing goals
Jacobson said he started searching for "structured, transparent growth" with each position he was interviewing for because his last role never had well-defined metrics for evaluating his performance.
To determine whether the position had clear indicators of success, he asked questions about specific opportunities for improvement and goals.
"About 50% of the time, the interviewer's answer would be something along the lines of 'being dedicated to the business' or 'putting in extra work to achieve success,' which are red-flag signals for me," Jacobson said.
4. Employees lacking time for outside hobbies
AJ Eckstein, a 24-year-old employee at a consulting firm, attempts to learn more about the hobbies and interests of past and current employees — and even those of hiring managers — to discover whether employees have time outside of work.
"Instead of just asking folks about the work-life balance, I would ask employees what they do outside of work," he said. He added that "a red flag would be if the interviewer shared that they do not do much outside of work given that their full-time job is so demanding," or if they have little time for hobbies due to all-consuming work, even on weekends.
5. 'The best day of the year is bonus day'
"Many folks I spoke to in investment banking mentioned that the best day of their job is the yearly bonus," Eckstein said. "While lots of money sounds great, that was a red flag to me since my life is not just about money, and I don't want to work hard 364 days of the year for one large payday."
In his job-hunting process, Eckstein wanted to find a company and career where the work centered on something he deemed meaningful. If everyone was driven by large pay as opposed to the work, Eckstein said, it indicated to him that the company might not be promoting a culture where he'd feel fulfilled.
Do you have something to share about navigating a work-life balance as a member of Gen Z, as a millennial, or as a part of another generation? If so, Insider would like to hear from you. Email reporter Alex York at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.
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