How to Tell If a Company is Family-Friendly

man at computer with woman and baby
Tom Merton / OJO Images / Getty Images

What do parents want from work? There's no one answer to that question. Some parents prioritize flexible schedules, while others are more intent on weekends completely free from any work, including email. But one thing nearly every parent desires is a family-friendly workplace.

How to Tell If a Job Posting Is Family-Friendly

How can you discover if a workplace will provide the work-life balance you need for yourself and your family before you take a job? It isn’t always easy to know a company's attitude toward parents, but much is revealed in job advertisements.

Checking out the company before you apply can save you some time putting in applications.

You can ignore the employers who don’t appear to be a good fit and focus on applying for jobs that meet your guidelines.

Before you craft a cover letter and tap into your network for connections, review the job posting carefully for signs that the position is at a family-friendly company.

Signs That a Company Supports Families

1. Pay Attention to How They Describe Themselves

Here's one easy signal: Some companies will describe themselves as family-friendly within the job posting (most likely, in the section describing the company). The company may also highlight awards and acknowledgements, such as making it onto a list of family-friendly companies.

2. Read for Code Words

Even if the company doesn't directly define themselves as family-friendly, some code words in the job description can be very revealing, such as "work-life balance" and "flexibility." Look for a sense that the work completed is more important than time in office; references to work-from-home or telecommuting options can signal the company's flexibility toward parents' schedules.

3. Look at the List of Benefits

Does the job ad mention childcare, insurance, or other family-friendly musts? A company that pays for parental leave is more likely to provide support to working parents in non-financial ways as well. Look also for companies that call out IVF coverage, help with adoption, or other family-oriented perks.

4. Review the Responsibilities and Qualifications

Not all moms and dads have the same definition of a family-friendly job. Consider what's important for you: maybe long hours are just fine, so long as weekends are work-free. Perhaps your top priority is avoiding out-of-state travel, and being home in time for your child's bedtime.

5. Match Your Schedule to the Job

Think about your ideal schedule, and then review the list of responsibilities and the description of what the job entails with an eye toward clues about hours, travel, and other responsibilities that might cut into your time with family.

How to Confirm the Company is Family-Friendly

After you've reviewed the job posting to see if there's a fit, make a list of the pros and cons to see how the job matches up to what you’re looking for. If it’s a good fit, or even close, take the time to apply. You can always investigate further as the hiring process moves forward.

1. Look for Clues During Your Interviews

Always remember, the goal of an interview is for employees to find out about your abilities, and for you to find out more about the position and company culture. At the end of an interview, you should have a better sense of whether the job is the right fit for you.

If you're seeking a position at a family-friendly company, ask questions that will help you know the company's culture and attitude toward parents: you can inquire about a typical workday, ask if the position comes with frequent last-minute requests or fire drills, or if people tend to find a good work-life balance. As well, you can ask if employees ever work from home, or if the company has any kind of flexible work schedule.

As you enter and exit the company's office, look around: Do you see a lactation room for breastfeeding moms? Does the company have a daycare facility? These are strong signs that the company is making an effort to accommodate parents.

Keep your eyes open for more subtle signs as well, such as kids' drawings tacked to cubicle walls and family photos. When a company has many parents, they are potentially more likely to accommodate parenting schedule challenges and have family-friendly work events.

2. Ask the Right Questions After You Get a Job Offer

Once the company expresses interest in hiring you, it's a good opportunity to get answers to any remaining questions you have about the company's culture, benefits, and expectations for employees.

If you don’t already know the company's benefits, you can ask: Is the health-insurance family-friendly? Does the company offer day care on site, or have any coverage for childcare? What's the flex-time policy, and do employees ever work from home?

3. Network Your Way to More Information

If you haven't already, reach out to your network: do any of your connections, either in real life or through LinkedIn, work at the company or know someone who does? They may have insight into whether the company will be a good fit for you.

An in-person meet-up, phone call, or an email exchange can provide much insight into the real day-to-day of a company.

Research now to help prevent unpleasant surprises during your first weeks at a new company.