Lifestyle Calculator Series | Chapter 5: Work Life Balance

This is the last part of our 5-part series in which we break down the various elements you may want to consider when entering a job offer negotiation.

This is the final chapter of our 5-part series in which we discuss the various elements you might want to consider when entering an employment negotiation. We’ll only be discussing a handful of topics here, but for all 24 elements check out The Lifestyle Calculator, a tool used by job candidates to weigh what it most important to them in a compensation package.

In our previous chapter, we talked about purpose – negotiation items related to both personal and career growth. We dove into some of the details on career development programs, and shed light on companies with some of the most generous employee benefits. Make sure to read Chapter 4 (and the rest of the chapters) to get a holistic look at the many important elements that go into a job offer.

In this final chapter, we discuss one of our favorite topics: Work-Life Balance (WLB). At 10x Ascend, we believe a healthy work-life balance is something to strive for in any work arrangement. And as an agency, we practice what we preach with our own employees. For those of you who share this value, we hope the following chapter helps explain what really goes into the concept of WLB!

Flex Time

Working on Your Own Time vs. Working on Prescribed Days/Hours

Awareness around employee wellbeing is at an all time high, and companies are more proactive than ever in trying to retain valuable staff. Fortunately for job candidates, this now translates to employers’ increased willingness to offer more freedom and control.

Core to the process of granting employees more freedom is the concept of flex time. Flex time might be defined a bit differently from company to company, but it generally represents the adoption of less rigid requirements surrounding office and/or work hours. That is, some companies are breaking away from the traditional 9 to 5 hours and giving employees the freedom to choose their hours.

Again, the degree of the “flex” (flexibility) depends on the company, but a flex time policy might look something like this:

“At X company, we recognize the importance of flex time and granting our employees the freedom to create their own schedules. Some of us are early risers, while others prefer to work deep into the evening. We ask that you complete your work whenever you prefer, within the hours of 5am and 8pm.”

Some companies are even more liberal than this. They don’t care what hours you work, as long as you get the work done.

In the above example, we see a basic shift in the traditional 9-5/10-6 requirement most of us have experienced at some point in our careers. Other flex time policies might offer the freedom to work on weekends, work just a few days of the week, take Fridays off, etc.

And of course, one of the more popular flex time concessions is the freedom to work from home (aka remote work). Tons of today’s roles, like developers and software engineers, don’t require employees to go into a physical office everyday. Companies are increasingly realizing that as long as employees are responsible, transparent, and efficient, there is little reason not to embrace a flex time policy that allows for remote work.

Research suggests flexible work arrangements can pay some pretty big dividends from a company’s perspective. As this Upwork article explains, employees with flex time perks report higher morale and lower levels of stress. And people are catching on. According to The Millennial Branding, a whopping 45% of Millennials prioritize workplace flexibility over pay!

Armed with this knowledge, consider a company’s potential willingness to be flexible (no pun intended) when it comes to negotiating flex time into your deal. If it means you’ll be a happier employee, chances are they’ll listen. And if they don’t, you’ll need to decide if the other attributes of the offer make up for the lack of flexibility.

Length Of Commitment

Guaranteed Employment for an Agreed Upon Length of Time

Some employment contracts include a clause defining the length of commitment, which is exactly what it sounds like. Typically, failure to abide by the commitment agreement means some form of penalty for the side that opts out.

For the employee, terminating before the end of the commitment could mean the loss of a bonus, a stricter non-compete, returning of a signing bonus, and/or the sacrificing of future references from that company. For the employer, it could mean having to pay out the remainder of the agreed upon contract. Typically, these are more beneficial for the employee than the employer since no one can force you to stay in a job you don’t like.

A commitment of this nature provides a lot of stability for an employee. It also helps mitigate the fear that leaving a great job for this new one is a bad idea or it won’t work out. Without the threat of losing your job for X number of years, you can focus better on the job itself, with little to no stress about the uncertainty of the near future.

As with all of these negotiation items, the importance of each depends on what YOU find most important. For some, the stability provided by a commitment might be really nice. For others, locking into an agreement might sound like a nightmare.

Travel Level / Requirements

How Much You’re Expected to Be on the Road

In Chapter 2 of this series, we talked about job offer items related to logistics. Within that category was expense accounts – the amount of money you’re allocated for work-related travel and entertainment.

We talked about travel a bit in that section, but perhaps this section should’ve been published first. Because while important, expense accounts related to travel really only matter if you’re okay with traveling for work in the first place.

Some jobs require a ton of travel, while others require none. Reasons for travel may include meetings with clients, conferences, or needing to visit other branches of the company for which you work. Whatever the reason, you should have a clear understanding of the travel requirements involved with any job before signing a contract.

Also keep in mind that if there is travel involved (and this is something you’re okay with), some companies offer lavish travel perks, while others do not. This is where the expense account and travel policy come into play – if and when you must travel for work, how enjoyable of an experience will it be? Coach, business, first class, or strapped to the wing?

Weeks Of Vacation Time (PTO)

How Much Paid Vacation Time You Get

Paid vacation time is great. You could be touring the South of France, on a tropical cruise, or road tripping along the coast of California – and the cashflow doesn’t take a break.

But when it comes to PTO policies, there is often more to be discussed than just how many days or weeks you will receive. This is something that is very negotiable and there should rarely be a need to take a step backwards from your prior job.

First things first, make sure you understand how PTO is accrued. Lots of companies have a formula that outlines the pace at which PTO is earned (1.25 days PTO/month of work, for example).

Once you understand how your paid vacation time is earned, you then should inquire about how unused vacation time is handled. Some companies let unredeemed vacation time roll into the next year. Others will compensate you for the unused time. For some, often to the dismay of employees, it’s use it or lose it.

For example, if company policy is 15 PTO days/year and you only used 12, you should be paid out for the 3 days you didn’t use. This is especially true when leaving a company. We believe it is morally correct for a company to payout exiting employees for unused vacation time. The Buzzfeed folks who were laid off without vacation time payouts in 2019 would probably agree.

A recent trend that caught on, especially at forward-thinking tech companies, is the concept of unlimited vacation time policies. From a company’s perspective, the thinking is that employees will hold themselves accountable and not abuse the lax approach. Netflix was first to popularize this concept, essentially communicating that if they must tell you how much time to take off, you should not be working there.

While unlimited PTO sounds nice, as a job candidate you should do your diligence in understanding how an unlimited vacation policy plays out in practice. Do employees abuse the policy? Or, on the contrary, are people afraid to take time off in fear that they’ll be judged or one-upped by fellow team members? Understanding this is crucial, as these questions get right into the core of the company culture.

Conclusion on Work-Life Balance in Job Offer Negotiations

For a lot of people, work-life balance is one of the most important parts of a great compensation package. And as you engage with various companies, chances are you’ll notice a pattern: Lots of them like to claim they offer great WLB.

As discussed in the previous section, it’s your job as a candidate to get to the bottom of what this really means. When you think about it, WLB is entirely relative. What one person considers a great balance is probably different from what you consider a great balance. And at the end of the day, your definition is all that really matters.

By now, especially if you’ve read all five chapters of this series, we hope you feel a bit more educated and well-equipped to take on your next compensation negotiation. As we’ve hinted at throughout this series, we pride ourselves in our negotiation expertise here at 10x Ascend. If you’re looking for advice, perspective, or just want to chat, we encourage you to reach out and introduce yourself. We’d love to hear from you!