How to Identify Jobs with the Best Work-Life Balance For You

Advice from the community for finding the best jobs with the work-life balance you're looking for.

Work-life balance has a different meaning at different stages in your life. For some, it may be the number of hours in a workday, or working for a company that encourages employees to take time off. While for others, it may be the flexibility to work from home and take care of their kids in between meetings.

Conversations on Elpha have shown that there isn’t just one formula for a healthy work-life balance. There’s also nothing wrong with working a lot if that’s what you enjoy doing.

What matters is figuring out what works for you, building habits that set you up to achieve that balance, and finding a job that supports you and your working style.

We gathered advice and stories from the Elpha community to put together a 5-step guide for finding a work-life balance that’s right for you. To find that balance we recommend that you:

  1. Find a rhythm that fits your working style

  2. Set boundaries between work and your personal life

  3. Create your work-life balance playbook

  4. Build a life outside of work

  5. Explore jobs that offer the work-life balance you’re looking for

Find a rhythm that fits your working style

Think about what rhythm allows you to thrive at work. If you prefer working in the morning, it might be best to start your day with a few hours of tasks that require focus and attention. This can give way to an afternoon filled with meetings and calls that leaves room to relax in the evening as well.

For Karin Hollerbach, Managing Director at Aerodyne Group, a routine that allowed her to get adequate sleep was best suited for her and her working style,

 “For me, that means early sleep, early start time because that happens to work for my body. That is my focused work time and I'm most productive then. Based on that and not being super-tired, I then don't feel bad about taking a long break later, say, to go exercise. I find my schedule (and my emotions around it) is much easier to manage when I'm not exhausted.”

If this doesn't sound like your ideal schedule, there are plenty of other formulas out there. 

Some people like having their mornings free, without any pressure from work. They may choose instead to start their days slowly, reading a book or going for a run. Or they may even have other responsibilities outside of work, like dropping kids off at school before starting the workday. Others find success by working late into the night. 

Given that work-life balance can look different for different people, Katerina Chaukina, Solutions Architect at Amdocs, says it’s important not to compare yourself to other co-workers when searching for this balance. 

“You don't know which support system they have and how they operate. For example, a co-worker may have just spent a few minutes of their time sending an email / responding on Slack, but, because they do it late or during off hours, you might assume that they work all the time. Instead, consider that they might have been spending dinner time with family, working out, etc, to feel rejuvenated and are just sending a quick late message.”

The key here is knowing yourself well enough so that whatever rhythm you choose feels natural when paired with your lifestyle and needs – and it doesn’t have to be limited to a 24-hour time frame. Karin reminds us to accept that achieving this balance is a dynamic process,

“Balance on a day-by-day basis doesn't always happen and I've come to accept that. Some days are much more work intensive and then I'll balance those out with more fun stuff other days.”

Set boundaries between work and your personal life

A common misconception about achieving a work-life balance is that it’s simply not possible to dedicate time to life without sacrificing the work part of the equation. It can be challenging to strike that balance, but you can have a successful career and still have time to take care of yourself. 

Setting boundaries and communicating these to your team can help find this balance. Maggie Wolff, Data Scientist at Egencia, shares how she does it ,

“I've always maintained a strict boundary of working 40 hours/week (with an exception here and there), and I've still had a successful career. I've never had a boss tell me that I need to do more, I've always had good performance reviews. So, don't get sucked into thinking you have to work late or work weekends to get ahead. Stick to 40 hours, take your vacation days, take sick days when you need them (even if it's just a mental health day).”

Be realistic about what you can accomplish on a given day and when you can do it. If you’re just starting to learn about your working style, you may need to readjust your team’s expectations of when you’ll be available. 

Remember that it's okay to take a step back and regroup—there's no shame in admitting when things get overwhelming. As one Elpha reminds us,

“My work is seen as competent and I am respected at work, and I think that showing your boundaries shows strength and leadership.”

Here’s how Erica Rios, Director of Product at The Mom Project, suggests communicating this change , in her case, to a manager, 

“I can no longer work past 5 pm each day, and cannot commit to weekends,”

Then, outline how you will re-prioritize your work so that you focus on the most important deliverables first.

Another Elpha shares her experience with setting boundaries ,

“I will only work at night 1-2 days a week. No weekend work unless there is a big event (crunch time). I no longer put my work email on my phone. I have turned off email notifications. I put “working blocks” into my schedule where I don’t check email and just work. Set strict “email” times and stick to them, otherwise, all you do is answer emails all day long. Only go to meetings that you have to! I turn off my computer or close it once my day is done.”

Christine Taylor, Purpose Brand & Content Strategy Consultant at OMPA, says that she doesn’t reply to emails outside her working hours unless it’s a true emergency, 

“One of my directors once gave me the advice to always answer every email but to never answer them immediately. He said if I make myself too available others will respond to that by asking for more.”

Amandine Flachs, Head of Growth at Pool Data, explains how working remotely for different time zones can take its toll on your mental health if you don’t set boundaries and communicate them to your team. Here are a few tips she shared with the community,

“For quite a while, my last role prevented me to go out. As soon as I booked an event, I received a call from my team or had to deal with emergencies which drove me crazy. So I started booking coffee catch-up breaks during the day and adding events to my shared calendar so people knew I would be offline. Those meetings and catch-up calls weren't directly related to my job, but it was a way to show that I wasn't online and available all the time. Another thing I do is switch off notifications on my phone after 7 pm and during weekends.”

For Katerina, setting boundaries means not checking her phone in the morning until the work day starts and doing workouts or yoga not “after she finishes work”, but at a specific time to give her structure.

Your physical surroundings can also mark boundaries. Taking note of this type of boundary may be especially valuable for those who work remotely or from home.

If having no physical separation between your personal space and workspace negatively affects your productivity and ability to disconnect from work, it may be worth making a few changes to your workspace. 

It can be as simple as being intentional about responding to messages on Slack from your work computer rather than from your personal phone. You can also go to a co-working space, or, if that’s not an option, have a designated workspace at home. Use a desk or create a visual separation between spaces with plants or color block a section of your home or room. 

Create a work-life balance playbook

A fixed routine might not work for everyone – especially if your job has flexible hours.

In that case, Elpha members recommend creating a set of rules or guidelines that allow you some flexibility while keeping you on track. 

Karin Hollerbach, Managing Director, shares guidelines she’s created that are compatible with her flexible remote work schedule,

“Rather than things like "I take a break to go workout every day at lunchtime" or "I start every day at X o'clock." I tend to ensure I get to take two big breaks each day for exercise or for other activities I love doing that are non-work related.”

How she allocates those during the day may vary depending on how she feels and what her work schedule requires. Those rules keep her accountable for incorporating breaks into her day when things get hectic without stressing over doing them at a set time.

Build a life outside of work

Figure out how much time you’d ideally like to set aside for your personal life – whether that’s time to spend with friends or family, pursue hobbies, or athletic endeavors like running. Once you have clarity on what’s ideal for you, start working on a place to make that ideal compatible with your work schedule.

Sally Danby, Product Manager at Landmark Information Group, shares a couple of things that have helped her find the balance,

“I book out personal events as private in my work calendar. I like the reminder to go do something for me and switch off. Also – lunch break. Make sure it's in the diary and take it. It took me 20 years to realize how vital that is.”

Carolyn Bickers , co-founder and COO at Beagle Learning, shares what she’s learned about how she decompresses ,

“If I'm physically with my family I might be mentally at work because I feel a lot of urgency or emotional pressure to complete something. So my mental burnout accelerates because I'm not actually stopping and moving to something else.”

For Carolyn, doing one activity per month that she enjoys and has nothing to do with her job – such as volleyball– is her way of disconnecting both physically and mentally from work. 

Explore jobs that offer the work-life balance you’re looking for

It’s hard to find companies that encourage employees to find work-life balance and that have cultures that align with your personal values on the subject.

Rachel Spurrier , Content Writer at Merit, explains that the questions we tend to ask potential employers to try to understand their attitudes toward work-life balance can be vague and, therefore, end up providing vague answers. The key is to ask for specifics ,

“‘Could you describe a time when there was a tight deadline and how your team worked to meet it?’ might give you a better idea of how companies treat work-life balance than asking directly "How do you view work-life balance?’”

One Elpha shared how they filter through companies that don’t align with their idea of work-life balance,

“A question I like to ask is “describe your best employee” and “describe your worst employee”. If they say things like ‘works long hours' then don’t take that job. Ask the hiring manager and others on the team you’re joining, not the recruiter.”

Lauren Snyder, VP of Operations at Mainstreet, advises Elphas to be ready to listen between the lines when asking companies about their work-life balance and culture. These are some vetting questions she recommends asking your potential employer,

  • What types of benefits does the company offer? There might not be a lot of questions you need to ask directly here, but clues that you can pick up. Then, tailor this to you and be realistic and honest with yourself if you're the type of person who finds freedom in the concept of 'unlimited PTO' or if you're someone who 'feels guilty' or unable to take real time off with these types of policies.

  • What types of norms are there within the team/company/department? E.g. do they volunteer together, offer family-friendly events, allow remote work, pre- or post-work travel if you want to work remotely and extend your work trip in a new city, what are their email/slack norms like, etc.

And these are some questions she suggests asking yourself to see if the company’s idea of a great work-life balance aligns with your values.

  • What does balance mean to you? Is this strictly the number of hours worked, feeling passion for your work, the ability to flex your schedule and go for a run in the middle of the day, etc. There are ways of finding balance beyond the explicit number of hours worked per week, so consider all aspects of what balance might mean to you.

  • Is this a role that aligns with your definition of balance? E.g. are you the only one performing a certain function? Do you regularly need to report to a board or travel frequently and internationally? Will you work with clients who often work weekends and expect responses on weekends? These can all raise stakes and eat away at feelings of balance.


⚖️  Looking for a tech company that will support your idea of work-life balance? Here's what work-life balance means to the best tech companies hiring on Elpha:

Zapier

What do they do?: Zapier is on a mission to democratize automation—to give people freedom from tasks that computers can do for them instead. With Zapier, you can integrate over 5,000 apps like Salesforce, Intuit, Google, and Dropbox, to move data between them automatically, so you can focus on your most important work.

What does work-life balance mean to them?: "Our asynchronous working style allows us to have flexibility around when we do our work. Whether that means taking a midday break to go to the gym, making sure you can pick your kids up from school every day, or running errands, we trust you to get your work done while living your life." 

Open positions at Zapier:

See 7 more jobs at Zapier

Grow Therapy

What do they do?: Grow Therapy is building America’s biggest behavioral healthcare group with in-network private practices powered by game-changing technology to ensure that anyone can afford quality mental healthcare.

What does work-life balance mean to them?: "At Grow, we take work-life balance very seriously. As a mental health company, we prioritize mental health for our clients, but also our coworkers. We have policies that reinforce work-life balance. For example, each Grow Employee takes a mental health block each week at the time of their choosing. This is a two hour time block for employees to step away from their work and prioritize taking care of themselves and their mental health. Additionally, we have unlimited PTO with a minimum of 15 days per year for each employee to take off.”

Open positions at Grow Therapy:

See 5 more jobs at Grow Therapy

Modern Treasury

What do they do?: Modern Treasury is on a mission to transform the way businesses move and track money, driving toward a world where payments are real-time, reconciliation is instant, and accounting is continuous. They are building payments infrastructure to power $750 trillion in bank transfers every year.

What does work-life balance mean to them?: "Although we hold ourselves to a high bar and work hard to support our customers, we value work-life balance. Modern Treasury employees work on different cadences depending on how they are most effective. Working on the weekends is rare and mostly driven by personal ambition or meaningful deadlines. We encourage our team to go on vacation (real vacations, where you don’t go online for at least 1-2 weeks).”

Open positions at Modern Treasury:

See 6 more jobs at Modern Treasury

👉 Learn more about the best work-life balance jobs at companies like Zapier, Grow Therapy, Modern Treasury, and 13 other startups hiring on Elpha.

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