If you’re interviewing for a remote job, digging into the culture of the company where you’re hoping to work should be a top priority. And understanding the remote work culture specifically is even more crucial.
Why? As experts point out, remote work can provide you many things—such as freedom from a commute and the environment of your own choosing—but it’s also important to ensure that you’ll be able to work well with your teammates and manager, flourish in your role, and have the chance to advance your career. Remote work looks different depending on the organization and its setup. If your entire team is working off-site and everyone is well-versed in using Slack, Zoom, and Asana, joining the company as a remote worker might be easy. If, however, you’re the only employee having to call into a monthly team meeting from afar, the experience might be more isolating than fulfilling.
“If you’re the odd person out, it might not be so great working from home. You might feel left out,” says April Klimkiewicz, career coach and founder of Bliss Evolution. That’s why she’s a big advocate for exploring the company culture and what it means for you as a remote worker. “It’s important to find a position that’s a fit,” she says. And that includes not only the role and the salary and the mission of the company, but also the remote work culture.
Fortunately, you can take advantage of the interview process to make sure you’re set up for success as a remote worker within an organization—all while making yourself shine, of course. Here are seven questions to ask when you’re pursuing a remote job to discover if this organization will help you thrive in your career, wherever you’re physically working.
1. Would I Be Working Traditional Office Hours? If Not, What Are the Hours?
If you’re a full-time employee of the company, remember that flexibility in where you work doesn’t necessarily translate to flexibility in when you work—so ask about your team’s schedule and the expectations around yours. “It’s a common misconception that if you’re working remotely, you get to pick and choose your own hours—and it’s quite the opposite,” says Ashlee Anderson, a certified professional career coach at Work From Home Happiness. In many cases, “you’ll have to maintain some sort of consistent and regular office hours, and those hours will depend on your team’s schedule.” If the team is fully distributed—meaning everyone is remote—Anderson also recommends asking the recruiter or your potential manager how the team collaborates across time zones. That way, you’ll discover if working outside of 9-to-5 office hours will be a requirement of your role.
2. Is This a Fully Distributed Team? What Percentage of the Team Is Remote?
These types of questions about the team’s makeup—which you can ask when you talk to HR or to the hiring manager—can help you determine if remote work is normalized in the organizational culture. “It’s very fair to ask ‘Am I the only person remote? Is it a mix?’” Anderson says. “You can gauge whether it’s completely normal in the company, or if it’s a situation where you’ll have to advocate for yourself to stay in the loop and make sure you’re not missing out on opportunities just because you’re working remotely.”
Even if remote workers are a small percentage of the team, or remote work is new in the organization—which is true of many companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—don’t rule it out based on that fact alone. It’s more pertinent to figure out if the team is proactively thinking about solutions for their remote workers, Klimkiewicz says. “If they’re answering your questions with, ‘We’ve accommodated for that,’ then you’re all good,” she says. Or if they tell you about how they’re regularly evaluating how things are going for remote employees and making changes to improve their experiences, that also bodes well.
3. How Does the Team Communicate? What Tools Do You Use to Collaborate?
Whenever you’re interviewing, it’s a smart move to ask about your supervisor’s management style and the team dynamics. When it comes to remote work, it’s all the more important. If you’re not in the same physical space, your boss and colleagues can’t stop by to give you a quick update, toss around ideas, or tell you why they approach something the way they do. So it’ll take some extra thought and effort to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
The chance to connect with your manager, coworkers, or even the CEO is also affected by being remote, so ask questions about how you can get face time within the company. “You want to be able to have open access to these people, just as if you were in an office environment,” Anderson says. “Ask about how many regular meetings there are via Zoom, and what, if any, access remote workers have to their manager.” Does your boss make a point of having regular one-on-ones with their