Here's How to Answer This High-Stakes Interview Question About Remote Work

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 15, 2024 at 9:32AM UTC

Today’s workplace looks very different from how it did just a couple of years ago. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations across sectors immediately pivoted to remote-only. Although this was jarring to plenty of employees at first, many quickly grew to appreciate their newfound ability to work from home.

Flash forward to April of 2022, and work environments are a hot-button topic. Some workplaces have gone fully remote. Others are beginning the transition (or have fully shifted) to in-person. Others still are embracing a hybrid model.

If you’re on the job hunt, for you, this means that you may very well hear a new question in job interviews: What’s your preferred work environment? 

Here’s how to answer, depending on your preference and what the company is doing right now.

If your preferred working model is the same as the company’s

Since you know this question is probably coming, it’s important to first do some research. See if you can find out what the company’s current model is — do employees largely work remotely, in-person or via a hybrid model?

In the best-case scenario, your preferred style will match that of the employer. Then, you can simply tell them that this is how you prefer to work. This may suffice, but have some reasons to justify your preference in case the interviewer probes further.

If you’re trying to negotiate for more remote work

If the employer prefers more in-person work than you’re comfortable with, ask whether this arrangement is negotiable. Again, explain why a remote environment is better for you, in terms of both your own level of comfort and your work habits. Describe, too, how you would be able to collaborate with your new colleagues remotely. 

You may have a better case if you’re willing to compromise a bit. Perhaps you would be able to come into the office once or twice a week or give up another benefit the employer is offering (a natural fit would be giving up a transportation reimbursement!). 

It’s also reasonable to ask about the safety measures the employer has put in place to protect you and your colleagues. This is an obvious question, and employers should be able to answer it.

If you’re trying to negotiate for more in-person work

In some ways, it’s a bit more difficult to negotiate for more in-person work. Some employers have shuttered their physical locations entirely, so you may be out of luck. However, even if this is the case, there still might be ways to achieve the advantages of in-person work. For example, try discussing alternatives, such as investing in a coworking space for you and colleagues in your area.

If there is a physical office, explain your rationale for wanting to come in more. Ask about whether there are more opportunities for in-person work, discussing why this is the best environment for you.

If you’re unsure

You don’t have to know how you feel about work environments right now. We’ve all come to learn that there are advantages and drawbacks to in-person, remote and hybrid workplaces alike. So, when it comes to responding to this question, what do you say?

Emphasize your willingness to be flexible and work with the employer to maximize both of your comfort levels. Ask what policies they have and how they oversee a safe workplace. Discuss what most of their employees do. Chances are, their expectations of you will be the same. It’s absolutely fine to voice any hesitations and learn about the employer’s approach.

These days, many employers understand the challenges we’re facing. So, don’t be scared to answer this question — just make sure you’re prepared.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

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