Using GitHub to determine work-life balance at potential new jobs

The scenario: you're looking for a new job and have found a few potentially good options, but you have no idea what working there will actually be like...

Are you going to like your coworkers? Are you going to like the work? Are you going to be working insane hours?

Those first two questions can be answered by interviewing and talking to people who work at the company, but that latter question - are you going to be working insane hours? - is traditionally more difficult to answer.

You might feel (rightly or wrongly) like you can't flat out ask that question during the interview process. You might be able to ask questions to allow you to reverse engineer the answer, but even then you might be afraid they're not giving you the complete picture.

But a really good method I've used to get a feel for work-life balance at potential new jobs is using the GitHub activity graph. And you can even do this without interviewing, before you even apply!

GitHub reconnaissance

The method is as follows:

  • search through GitHub for the company
  • click on the company's GitHub organization page
  • find some developers who work there
  • search through their GitHub contributions/activity graphs
  • be on the lookout for lots of weekend activity

That last bullet is the main thing you're looking for. If there's lots of weekend activity, chances are there's less work-life balance at the company. If you see a lot of contributions to private repos when you click on that weekend activity, chances are that could be for work.

Some important caveats to note, however

Personal projects

Developers don't only use their GitHub accounts for work, obviously. That weekend activity may very well be a personal project they're working on. There are a few things to look for:

  1. You can click on that weekend activity and see if it's all to private repos or if it's to open source repos
  2. Do they have very few repos? If they do and there's lots of weekend activity, chances are that's work activity
  3. If the company's work is all public and open source then you can obviously use that to figure out if that weekend work is work work

Just note that this is still a series of educated guesses. Weekend activity to private repos may still be personal projects, but repos the developer doesn't want public yet, or freelance work for private clients.


It's certainly possible that developers are working 12+ hour days but not at all on the weekends. Which would make this strategy less effective. But generally speaking, from experience, if developers are working late nights they're often working weekends too...

Private contributions hidden by default

GitHub doesn't show private contributions by default (that I know of!). From what I've seen though, it seems like many developers change this setting to show all contributions in their graph. But this may not always be the case so keep that in mind.

Irregular hours

Some companies just have enough flexibility in their scheduling that developers will work less hours during weekdays and more on the weekends. A good way you can figure this out is by asking during the interview.

Hopefully you find this technique helpful. Keep in mind that it's not perfect and there can be false negatives. But if you still choose to apply and get interviewed, you can use the information you already have to ask more informed work-life balance questions! And avoid the companies that have no work-life balance at all!

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