When searching for a job, it’s common to focus on factors such as the type of work, the impact you want to make, the size of your paycheck, and the prestige of the company. But as a time management coach, I’ve found that one of the key factors in job satisfaction is the amount of time you’ll need to put into your career. If the hours you work don’t align with how you like to spend your time, you may end up feeling miserable, even if you love the work and are well paid.
In fact, one of the top reasons people left their jobs during the recent Great Resignation was burnout. To ensure that you find a work environment that will make you happy from a time commitment perspective, you’ll need to consider not only the job responsibilities, but also the job lifestyle.
Here are four factors to consider when evaluating the “time-fit” of a potential career:
- Travel Requirements: One way in which your job may extend beyond the 9-5 is through frequent required travel. At the high end, you may be tasked with business trips on a weekly basis. At the low end, you may be on the road once a quarter or less. Some positions may require no travel at all.
A job with a lot of travel doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad time-fit. The key is to think about whether the travel works for you and your goals, priorities, and personality. If you enjoy the hotel lifestyle and don’t have many location-dependent commitments, such as a family or pets, a job with a lot of travel may be perfect for you. But if you want to tuck your kids into bed most nights and don’t adapt well to living out of a suitcase, too much travel may be a deal breaker. Consider what you’re willing and unwilling to do, and if needed, discuss your preferences with your family.
- Commute Time: During the pandemic, many office workers got a respite from their daily commute. In some cases, this gave them back up to three to four hours a day. As many employers have returned to a hybrid model, you may need to decide how much of your life you’re willing to devote to traveling to and from your desk. If you’re committed to staying fully remote, look for a job that’s committed to giving you that option. Organizations without official offices, or at least none in your area, will typically want you to work remotely. If you’re okay with going into the office but desire a hybrid approach, find out if that’s the current norm and whether the plan is to continue operating that way long term. Consider the length of your commute as well. Some studies suggest that a 16-minute commute is the ideal distance for overall happiness. Pay attention to what works for you. If you feel drained after a 30-minute or longer commute, try to find a job with an office within that range, or at least one where you can move closer if needed.
- After-Hours Expectations: Even if your dream job doesn’t require extensive travel or a long commute, that doesn’t mean your workday will always have clean edges. If you’re okay with a work-life blend where you’re always somewhat connected to the office, this may not be an issue. But if you value clear boundaries between work and personal time, you’ll need to find out what the after-hours expectations are for your position.
- Flexibility: For some people, the ability to have flexible hours or work from home is important for achieving a good work-life balance. If you’re someone who is more productive at night or needs the flexibility to take care of personal matters during the day, a job with a more traditional 9-5 schedule may not be the best fit. On the other hand, if you thrive in a structured environment and prefer to have clear boundaries between work and personal time, a job with a lot of flexibility may not be ideal. Consider what works best for you and your lifestyle when evaluating the flexibility of a potential job. And if you do need a certain level of flexibility, make sure to communicate this to your employer during the interview process. It’s better to address any potential conflicts upfront rather than finding out after you’ve accepted the job that the expectations don’t align with your needs.
By considering these four factors, you can find a career that aligns with your lifestyle and priorities. Remember, the right career choice is one that brings both fulfillment and success. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for your needs during the job search process. Your happiness and well-being are worth it.