Covid-19 threw the business world for a loop in 2020. It changed everyone’s perspective on what their career could and should be. This introspection was followed by many employees leaving their jobs to search for something new, whether it was relief from burnout or new opportunities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.6 million people quit their jobs in May 2021, after the all-time high in April of 4 million. The main takeaway from this seemingly mass exodus is that workers have a better idea of what they want from their jobs, and now they’re seeking it out.
For the industries that could, working from home became the new normal as the public health crisis wore on. Now, after a year of working from home, many people prefer it over being in an office. The flexibility, lack of commute, location independence, and the better work-life balance that comes with saving money and time every day is a major motivator for many people looking to re-enter the workforce.
The question is, when during the interview process do you ask about flexibility as it relates to the work environment?
With the uncertainty of how companies will handle the post-pandemic workspace, it may be difficult to determine if the jobs you are applying for are currently remote with plans to transition to the office once the pandemic fully lifts. Most companies and recruiters strive to make this clear in job postings. The question then becomes, when is a good time to ask about it during a job interview?
If working from home is mandatory for you
If working from home is your number one priority, the consensus among professionals is that you should broach the topic in the initial screening call or the first interview. If working from home is not an option with the company you are applying for, then it saves everyone time to know this in the initial interview stages. While asking this early on is important, it should not be the first topic of conversation. Wait and learn more about the position, company, and culture, and then ask the question.
• What is the nature of the role: remote, office, or hybrid?
• Is there any flexibility for remote work?
• How did the company respond to remote work during the pandemic?
Asking these questions should be the same as asking where the office is so you can judge the commute. It is a vitally important factor in the way you balance your work and your life, and if you must work from home, ask the question early. Remember that you are selling yourself and your skills. If the company is interested in your candidacy, there is a chance that they will accommodate your desire to work from home.
If you prefer working from home, but it’s not a deal-breaker if you can’t
If working from home is a preference for you, there are more ways to go about it. There is still the option to bring it up in early conversations about the team, office, and culture. This stage is a time where you can define what hybrid means to that organization. There is room for miscommunication with the hybrid model as you could expect to only go into the office twice a week, while the company is expecting three days. It is important to define that early to avoid any confusion.
The other option for you, if you are not placing too much priority on working from home, is to save that question until the offer stage. Some professionals want to ensure that they spend the first interviews and conversations selling themselves and collecting all the relevant information to make the offer a two-way conversation. Because once the company likes you and wants you, you have greater leverage in that conversation.
In the end, this is your life and your career. You should not feel guilty about asking for what you want in a job. If you feel as if you are more productive working from home, and that makes more sense for your situation, you should ask and ask early.