Uncover the True Flexible Work Culture of a Company

Flexible work culture

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Perhaps you know someone or have even experienced this scenario yourself: you have just completed a few promising interviews for a dream job. The employer and your potential supervisor appear to meet all your key criteria, and you believe they will even work with you on a flexible arrangement. You are so enthusiastic about this opportunity that when you receive an offer, you can hardly contain your excitement. Fast forward to a few months of working, and the company’s true culture becomes more clear. Sadly they are not what they seemed. You feel deflated and blindsided. You wonder what you could have done to prevent such a disappointing outcome?

What’s Your Flex Culture?

When seeking a position with a flexible work arrangement, understanding the underlying beliefs and values of a company, or its culture, becomes especially critical. You may wonder if the employer is legitimately supportive of flexible arrangements. How do they treat employees with such schedules? Do they actually integrate flexible work policies or just publicize them for show? How do other employees look upon these arrangements? After all, the company’s culture is often defined by the organization’s leadership and infiltrates the behavior and actions of all employees.

It is possible to gain clues about the company’s real ethos throughout the hiring process. However, as demonstrated in the situation above, it is often necessary to dig further and gather information about an employer using other sources. Below are six steps (beyond the interview) that you can take to unearth as much as possible about a company’s true flexible work culture.

1. Company Information:

Start with a review of the company’s website and social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram). Although the employer is putting their best foot forward on these platforms, there most likely will be some clues about their culture in the way they describe and brand themselves. What is their mission? What do they have to say about their employees? Do they specifically talk about any employee initiatives or flexible work policies and practices?

A favorable statement on one company’s website reads, “[We strive] to be an employer of choice, and flexibility is a critical tool to achieve this end. Understanding and creating a flexible work environment is central to our mission and our work, and it is reflected in all our work practices.”

While such a message is exemplary, ultimately you need to determine if such policies are integrated across the company and supported at all levels. Is this company serious about its flexible work policies or are they just paying lip service?

2. Company Lists:

Along similar lines, notice if the company has won any “best workplace” awards (see this post for lists that identify flexible organizations). However, keep in mind that some of these best lists are based on the companies’ reports of what they offer, not on feedback from employees.

3. Company News:

Enter your target company’s name in your favorite search engine and review any resulting news items. What have journalists written about this organization? Are there any reports on flexibility in the workplace? You can also set up a Google Alert to receive future news about the company.

4. Company Reviews:

Another option is perusing sources where employees anonymously share the scoop about their organizations. However, as described in this article by The Muse, take the feedback with a grain of salt. Notice overall patterns. If several people are complaining about the same aspect (e.g., the lousy annual review process), that might count more than one disgruntled employee’s rant.

One notable source that specifically incorporates flexible work ratings is Fairygodboss.com, a “job and company review website for women.” Employees submit anonymous information about their workplace, including work flexibility, as well as salary and bonus information, benefits, promotion opportunities, maternity and paternity leave, office culture, and overall support of gender diversity. In the recent Work-Life Balance Guide, job seekers can also view employers that offer flexible work arrangements, as well as employees’ comments about flexibility and culture at each company.

Other websites that collect employee-submitted feedback and information about companies (although they may not specifically highlight flex work) include the following:

5. Current and Past Employees:

Talking with current or past employees of a company is an excellent way to gain insider information. If you are not in the midst of applying for a job at the company, you can approach the meeting as an informational interview. If you are in the process of submitting a job application or interviewing, you can still ask to talk with other employees (or even team members) at the organization.

In these cases, think carefully about your questions and how you will ask them. To learn more about the company’s culture and work flexibility, you might pose the questions below. However, be sure to also mix in queries not related to culture or flexibility so that it doesn’t come across as your one and only concern!

  • How would you describe the culture of your company?
  • Do employees take advantage of policies in place, such as unlimited sick time, flexible work arrangements, [add another policy]?
  • What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of your company?
  • What do employees do for fun in this office?
  • Can you give me a sense of your work schedule? Are other employees’ schedules similar or is there a range?

 6. Other Professionals in the Field:

Ask those you know in the field what they have heard about an organization’s culture and reputation. Professionals who have worked in an industry for some time tend to be well aware of the in’s and out’s of each major employer in the geographical area.

Of course, as with all types of reviews, avoid giving too much credence to any one source’s critique. Instead, collect as much data as you can find and consider the overarching themes. The good news is that today there are many ways to uncover evidence about organizations’ true work cultures. Just keep digging, until you feel you’ve left no stone unturned.

Readers, what has worked for you in terms of learning more about a company’s flexible work culture?

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