When Should You Ask About WFH in the Hiring Process?

As the country continues to heal from the aftermath of the pandemic, more jobs are returning. According to the latest JOLTS report, there are 9.2 million job openings as of May 2021. Furthermore, over 850,000 jobs were added by the U.S. economy, significantly surpassing economists’ projections of 700,000. So, with so many jobs available and 42% of employed job seekers looking for greener pastures, more people are starting to dip their toes into the job market. But if you are looking for a new position and want (or even need to) work remotely, when is the best time to broach this question? Here is when you should ask about working from home during the hiring process.

WFH policies are usually in job descriptions

So, if you are searching for a new job opportunity and remote work is a must-have, when should you ask the hiring manager? Typically, job descriptions will give you some indication of the company’s work from home or hybrid policies. Explaining the onsite or remote work policies in job descriptions became the norm during the pandemic, and now that we are well into recovery mode, most employers are still making this clear. Job descriptions are either clarifying that they are onsite positions to avoid any confusion, or employers are giving a glimpse at their remote work policies to lure in new candidates. Either way, most employers are (and should) share these details in their job descriptions.

When to pop the WFH question

However, if there is no mention of the company’s policies, you may have to ask for clarification. So, if working from home is an absolute must, when should you ask about WFH in the hiring process? It’s usually best to ask at the beginning of the process to save both you and the employer time. If the hiring manager or recruiter does not mention the topic at the beginning of an interview or pre-screening, you can safely ask towards the end of your conversation. Generally, this topic will come naturally during an initial interview, as most employers want to make their policies know upfront. If they do not support any remote work or hybrid working formats, they will usually be straightforward to weed out candidates with remote work as a main priority.

Nevertheless, if remote work is a deal-breaker for you, you should ask about it during that initial interview. Even if a company supports remote work or a hybrid schedule now, that doesn’t mean they will do so, say six months from now. Many companies are still evolving to offer safe working environments for their staff. In other words, the employer’s remote work policy may not be set in stone and could change as time goes on. So, if this conversation does not arise during your initial interview, you should ask for details towards the end of your meeting.

How to ask about working from home

If you need to broach the subject, you can easily do so with a quick question. Here is an excellent example of how to ask about WFH during the hiring process:

“The job description did not clarify if this position is onsite only or offers the opportunity to work remotely. Can you please elaborate on your work from home policy?”

This question is a simple way to get a better idea of the company’s WFH situation. But if you absolutely must work from home and you need to ensure remote work is a permanent perk at the company, you can clarify their policy with the following question:

“So, you mentioned that some employees are currently working remotely. Is this a policy [company name] plans on supporting in the future?”

Asking this question is an excellent way to understand the company’s stance on working from home permanently.

Don’t be afraid to ask

At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to ask the employer about their WFH plans. Policies are changing, and remote work is more convenient in specific locations and industries. As long as you ask earlier in the hiring process, you are in good shape. Just like with the salary and benefits, never start the conversation off with the company’s opinion on working from home. And even if they do not support a hybrid workforce, that doesn’t mean they won’t make an exception for the right person. You don’t know until you ask, but you must ask at the appropriate time.

The One Big Problem with Hybrid Work

If the pandemic has taught us anything over the last 18+ months is that remote work is here to stay. Even the companies long opposed to working from home opportunities have found value in supporting a remote workforce. According to data from LinkedIn, 87% of employees want to remain remote most of the time. With only 13% of employees desiring to be in the office the majority of the time, employers must offer hybrid working models to attract new employees. However, there is one big problem with hybrid work that has been prevalent (and surprising to many): working from home is damaging many people’s work-life balance.

Remote work job openings are increasing

Like many others, you probably expected remote work to plateau as COVID-19 restrictions lifted and our lives slowly returned to normal. Surprisingly, the opposite is occurring. Over the last 12 months (from May 2021 to 2020), remote job openings grew by 240% globally. As a result, total job posts with words like “remote” or “work from home” now account for almost 14% of total job openings. This is a massive jump and is changing the future of recruiting strategies for most employers.

Work-life balance continues to be an issue

In the early days of the pandemic, many workers struggled with maintaining a healthy work-life balance. After working from home for nearly a year and a half, it can be more challenging to separate your work life from your home life. If you are one of these people, you are not alone. 32% of remote employees are more likely to struggle with work-life balance. That may surprise many employers as remote work eliminates many of the stresses that in-person working generates, such as traffic, long commutes, endless meetings, and many other things. However, burnout is on the rise, and with the quit rate at an all-time high, employers must be creative to improve their staff’s work-life balance.

Maintaining a hybrid workforce with a healthy work-life balance

If you are looking to attract (and retain) your remote workforce this summer, you are going to have to do your part to offer a healthy work-life balance.

Support their need to take time off

First of all, support your staff members and their need for time off. Many workers put off taking some much-needed R&R during the pandemic. As things continue to open up with restrictions lifting, your staff will be more likely to request some time off. Instead of making your workers feel bad about taking time off that they earned, support their need to step away from work for a few days or a long weekend. Some employers, like Bumble and LinkedIn, are even closing their doors for a week and giving all of their employees a paid week off. Whatever your PTO policy is, encourage your employees to use the time to relax and take a step away from work.

Regularly check in with your staff

Communication is essential when managing a hybrid workforce. Schedule one-on-one check-ins to see how they are handling their workload and watch for signs of burnout. If you don’t encourage open communication with your staff, it can be hard to pick up on cues of a poor work-life balance.

Optimize your hybrid work schedule

If you really want to support your staff in this new hybrid schedule, you can be more selective with the days they work from home and the days they work from the office. Depending on your industry and the role, some days may be more beneficial to work from home than others. Here are the best days to work from home for most employees to boost your work-life balance.

How to Manage A Hybrid Workforce

Last March, the majority of companies were forced into supporting a remote workforce because of the pandemic. Fast forward to today, and things are finally turning a corner for the better. As we continue to enter this new normal, many employers are supporting both a remote and an on-site team to optimize production and adhere to essential safety protocols. If your team is struggling to handle this new transition, here are a few tips on how to effectively manage a hybrid workforce.

Set clear expectations

With a split team, it is essential to establish clear expectations for both remote workers and your on-site staff. With a hybrid team, it can be more challenging to communicate and frequently check in to see how things are going. If expectations for your staff are clear and effectively communicated, it will be easier to hold everyone accountable. If you set expectations, your team will better understand what you are expecting from them, and thus, there will be less confusion and disparities amongst your team.

Clear communication is essential

When it comes to managing a hybrid workforce, you must facilitate clear communication. With your team in different regions and possibly in different time zones, communication can get messy. As a result, your company should invest in communication technologies such as Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams. These communication tools will help enable solid communication and ensure your team is always on the same page. These tools will make it easier to check in with your staff, conduct regular meetings, and share project timelines.

Be flexible and open-minded

If you are managing a hybrid workforce, you must be flexible and open-minded. Your workers in the office will have a little more structure and rigidity. However, your staff working from home will have different distractions; they will be managing their personal and work lives simultaneously and maybe working nontraditional hours. If you plan on this hybrid team being successful, you must practice patience and understand that flexibility is key. Your remote staff may have to step away from their computers for a few minutes to tend to their kids or pets. Being flexible will help your team from reaching burnout and ultimately make them more productive.

Watch for signs of burnout

If part of your hybrid workforce has been working remotely for a while, they may be inching closer to burnout. Your in-office staff likely has more structure, and it’s easier to leave work at work. However, for your remote staff, it’s easy for the lines between work and home to get blurry. As the leader of your team, you should be looking for signs of burnout. Lack of motivation, late-night emails, employees who are always online, and less-than-perfect performance are all signs an employee may be on the verge of burnout. The expectations you set for your team will help mitigate this, but that may not be enough.

Encourage your team to share how they feel, regularly check in with them one-on-one to see how they manage this newer working environment, and listen to their concerns. Also, urge your staff to use their time off, especially those who are remote. It can be easy to let those vacation days stack up while working from home. Stepping away from work is essential to your team’s mental health and performance, and leaders must support that.

Emphasize cybersecurity best practices

Cyberattacks are on the rise for your employees that are working remotely. Your team is accessing company documents, systems, and other valuable information on personal internet connections. As a result, it is vital to establish IT best practices. It’s a good idea to regularly send emails with your company’s IT policies and procedures to reduce your risk of these attacks. Keeping your staff, and ultimately, your company secure from the additional working-from-home vulnerabilities will help your team remain safe and secure.

Managing a hybrid workforce is not an easy feat, but if you follow these guidelines, you are on your way to a more productive, happier team.