Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Work-Life Imbalance

I saw an interesting article on Ladders on a new trend in the job application process: prospective employers sussing out whether their prospective employees are willing to give up any thought of work-life balance to get the job.

Given all we hear about companies trying to promote work-life balance by enforcing vacations, requiring smartphone free weekends, and doing all kinds of other employee friendly things, this may come as something of a shock. We’re told that work-life balance is what the millennials are demanding. That’s it the only way to attract and retain valuable employees (a.k.a. in the argot of the day “assets”).

At the same time, we’re also continuing to hear about all the 24/7 tech companies where the assets live on Red Bull and Doritos, sleep on futons, and only take time off when it’s to do something like pogo-stick up Mount Kilimanjaro or build a schooner out of bamboo shoots.

So which is it?

Do the stodgy old old-school companies offer work-life balance, while the blazingly hot startups offer a near-death experience in return for the remote possibility that you’ll get a big payday when the blazingly hot startup goes unicorn?

Anyway, it seems that some companies are slipping tests into the interview process. Take Barstool Sports chief exec

… Erika Nardini, who reportedly texts job applicants interviewing with the company on weekends. Nardini said she does this “just to see how fast you’ll respond,” in an interview with The New York Times. She expects to be contacted back “within three hours,” she elaborated. “It’s not that I’m going to bug you all weekend if you work for me, but I want you to be responsive. I think about work all the time,” Nardini said. “Other people don’t have to be working all the time, but I want people who are also always thinking.” (Source: The Ladder)

I will observe that anyone looking to work at Barstool Sports – a blogging site the covers sports and “guy stuff” – can reasonably expect that their job will require them to pay attention to the stuff – guy and otherwise – that happens on nights and weekends. Stuff like football games. And I’m guessing that the folks attracted to working there are going to be youngish folks who live on their smartphones and will quite naturally respond to any weekend text from Nardini within 3 seconds, let alone 3 hours.

For Barstool, that sneaky little cat is now out of the bad, and you’d have to be a really bad interviewee not to be on the lookout for a text from Nardini. I suspect that it’s more likely that canny prospects will be texting Nardini or tweeting #barstoolsports when they come across something of interest, like an NFL star with a DUI. Or an event of equally vital importance.

Another CEO:

asks candidates if they’d “leave [their] family at Disneyland to do something that was really important for the company?” He expects them to say yes.

Although there are certainly another company might expect a ‘no’ or some sort of pushback.

I’m all for work-life balance. I put in plenty of years as a weekend warrior and late-nighter. Mostly this was just a trap that I willingly fell into. I never worked anyplace where there was an expectation that you’d work crazy hours. Even when I worked like a lunatic, with a couple of call-into-a-meeting exceptions, vacations were vacations. No one expected you to work during them. This was, of course, pre-smartphone and rampant “always on”.

These days, there are enough ways to figure out whether an outfit is committed to work-life balance, or hits the teeter-totter on the work-life imbalance side. Sure, people can end up in a place where there’s a bad fit. And, certainly, companies can bullshit you on their real intentions during the interview process. But, hey, if the CEO is honest enough to send you a weekend text to see how quick you jump, I say good for them. Do with it what you will.

A Pink Slip work-life balance shout-out to John Whiteside, a friend (and former colleague) who posted a link to this article on FB.

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