Despite the enduring pandemic, companies are luring workers back to the office, even as COVID-19 cases surge in parts of the country and vaccination efforts have largely stalled. Still, the whole transition back to the office after more than a year of working remotely is a big issue for anyone in the corporate world, and is rife with questions that seem short on sufficient answers.
Companies are handling the issue in different ways: Some are offering a hybrid setup, while others are abandoning the idea that the office is a necessity at all, allowing employees to work wherever they please. Therefore, it’s important that you know exactly how a prospective employer intends to treat this transition back to the office, mainly since workers hold more sway than ever in this regard.
The most important question during a job interview
That’s why, right now, the most important question to ask a prospective employer is: “How do you plan to handle your return to the office?” It’s a vital one that can make or break your interest in a job. A helpful Twitter thread from marketer Emily Coleman explains how a positive job interview can take a sudden nosedive if a company’s return to office policy is out of sync with your expectations.
They told me that they were only out of office for a very short period of time and have been back in the office for months. They have no working from home or remote work options.— Emily Coleman (@editoremilye) July 28, 2021
I asked if the office was an open floor plan or individual offices. It's cubes in a fishbowl.
Coleman says the realisation that the company hadn’t taken any real precaution with in-person work during the pandemic, combined with the sterile office environment, ultimately cratered her interest in the job. Moreover, a company’s plan for returning to the office can potentially speak volumes about how it values its employees on a broader level. If a workplace is having everyone follow a rigid order that not only doesn’t give you a say in your work schedule, but also subjects you to potential health hazards, then it might be time to move on to other opportunities.
Other good, current questions to ask in a job interview
In a remote or hybrid work setup, it’s important to ask how a company might create its culture. If a lot of that organic, real-world interaction can’t occur — especially if people are allowed to live far away from a physical office — then it’ll be smart to ask how camaraderie might be engineered. This is a question to ask a recruiter, or to bring to a hiring manager, in order to get their perspective on whether or not these efforts work.
You also have every right to ask whether a company has instituted a vaccine mandate for its returning workers. Obviously, if there’s something of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy, that could compromise the health of everyone in an office setting. There’s no clear through-line in this regard, as some companies have different policies on vaccinations. Make sure you understand where you stand on this issue (we recommend it’s on the side of mandatory worker vaccinations).
Given that a host of very modern issues from outside the workplace are now bleeding into our working lives, it’s important you consider these things; you’ll be glad you brought them up in your next interview.