Last month, the U.S. Surgeon General recommended several things employers can do to improve employee well-being. These recommendations aim to make workplaces safer, more inclusive, and healthier environments for employees. But how can you find a healthy work environment before you accept a job offer with an employer? Here are three things you can do that will help you spot healthy work environments during your job search.
1. Connect with current and former employees
No matter the type of role you’re applying for, it’s always a good idea to seek out candid and personal advice regarding an organization through networking. You can do this via various networking sites (such as LinkedIn) and through your schools’ alumni networks. Once you find someone you want to connect with, the next step is to do your research on their professional background and what they do at their organization. It’s much easier to write an email or a message that will actually get opened when you understand more about who you’re reaching out to. Keep in mind that your initial connection should be short and sweet. End it with a polite and courteous call to action—whether that be a phone call or virtual meeting—which will give you an opportunity to dig deeper into your curiosity about the workplace.
Networking to uncover healthy workplaces has its own set of challenges because you never want to offend or trigger someone with your questions. For example, if DEI efforts are high on your priority list, approach these questions with caution and an understanding that you don’t know your connection’s life story. In these instances, it’s best to keep the questions and conversations general about the organization, as opposed to personal stories. Don’t ask your connection if they have personally been discriminated against. That could open the door to a traumatic experience they might not be willing to share. Instead, ask if the company has taken steps to support DEI, and what those steps are.
Even though you’re reaching out to gain information, it’s important to note that networking goes both ways. You don’t want to overwhelm your connection with questions while not allowing them the opportunity to gain insight from you as well. Networking is a mutual experience that both parties should benefit from.
2. Read employee reviews
If you find a role that you think fits well with your skills, research the organization to see if it might fit well with your values. The best way to do this is to find reviews from the inside—from current or former employees. These reviews will provide you with invaluable insight into what an organization looks like behind the curtains of its website. Organizations can promote their values time and time again, but their employees will let you know if they’re all talk or if they stick true to their word.
One place to find verified insider reviews is here at Vault-Firsthand, where you can find thousands of insider reviews from top banking, accounting, consulting, and law firm employers, and thousands of insider reviews from current and former interns from top internship programs.
3. Ask questions during your interviews
An interview is not a one-way street. Although you’ll certainly have to field a lot of questions, an interview is not an interrogation. You can—and should—direct some questions back to the interviewer. If employee well-being is at the top of your priority list, use your interview to learn more about the organization and its values.
One simple and very informative question to ask is: “What is the culture like in the workplace?” How your interviewer approaches answering this question can often tell you a lot. For example, if your interviewer seems stumped by the question, then culture isn’t on their mind a whole lot, and thus likely not a primary focus of the organization. On the other hand, if your interviewer answers this question with zero hesitation and goes into depth about the company's DEI efforts, flexibility, and work-life balance, then it’s very likely that employee well-being is taken seriously.
Of course, not all answers to this question will be so black and white—a lot will fall somewhere in the middle. So, it’ll be up to you to decide if the answer you receive aligns with your values.