In recent months, remote work has become more popular and, arguably, necessary to keep professionals safe during the current pandemic. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies already had work from home (WFH) programs available, but for every company that had a robust remote work program in place, there was another that had to quickly learn to adapt to the changing landscape. In either case, no company was using remote work options on the scale they are today.
Adapting to the changing employment landscape has been an adjustment, and some companies have adapted faster than others. How well a company supports its remote workers is a big deal to job seekers. After all, a dream job can quickly turn into a nightmare if the tools and support needed for success are lacking.
The good news is, there are a few questions you can ask during the interview process to help you determine if a company’s remote work program is supportive or if you’ll be left in the dark.
How Is Training for This Position Being Handled?
Just because a position is remote doesn’t mean the training for it will be. For both learning and health purposes, it is important to ask how training is going to be conducted and the reasoning for it. There could be several reasons why a company chooses to keep training onsite; technology and/or communication limitations could be the cause, and if so, it could be a red flag for day-to-day remote work. On the other hand, it could be done to help strengthen working relationships upfront.
In either case, it’s important to discuss training with an employer to better understand new hire logistics, and if their training program (and company culture) matches your learning style.
When you’re training onsite, receiving feedback is a lot easier because you’re able to interact and engage in the moment; you can get your questions answered quickly, observe real-time examples, and shadow with team leads. With virtual training, while it is possible, the distance created by technology can make learning a bit challenging.
Much of the communication with your trainer will be done via video call or through a recording. When you ask questions, it will most likely be through chat messages and responses can take a while.
A lot of those tools will carry over into the day-to-day aspects of the job, so it is important to take note of the tools that are available and how a business uses them.
What Are the Daily Expectations for This Role? Have They Changed Since Making This Position Remote?
When a work format shifts, the adjustments to processes will cause a change in productivity and job expectations. Remote work may have inadvertently caused some companies to take a more hands-off approach to leadership, and you will be expected to hit the ground running. Other companies may lean into the over-communication style of leadership (which to some people can feel like micromanagement) to ensure everything is being done. Ask about how your day will be structured and how frequently you will be in contact with your supervisor.
What Resources Will Be Available to Remote Employees?
Having a productive work-from-home team requires more than just handing your employees laptops and setting up a VPN. Ask about the resources, tools, and support will you be given on the job.
If there is a tool or program that breaks, who is available to help you troubleshoot and how quickly can you expect the issue to be resolved? Many companies take a relaxed approach by using chat programs, while others require a formal ticket submission when assistance is needed.
Be sure to ask who your primary, secondary, and tertiary points of contact are when you do have questions or need additional support.
How Has Your Team’s Engagement Level Changed Since Moving to Remote Work?
Team dynamics change when workers are remote. It is very easy for employees to feel like they are on “Isolation Island”. Asking a prospective employer what they are doing to combat this is critical in better understanding workplace dynamics and company culture.
Do they have weekly calls together or video conferences? What kind of virtual team building do they do? Even though you may never meet your fellow team members face-to-face, it’s still important to know who you are working with and to have some sort of working relationship with them in order to work well as a team.
Putting it All Together
Working from home comes with some challenges, but if a company invests in this format of work, it can be a very supportive and productive way to work. With so much up in the air, it is hard to know what the future holds long term for the professional landscape. For the time being, asking questions during your next interview can help you get a better understanding of what you can realistically expect from a company’s current culture, training program, and available resources, so you can make the best decision for your career.