How to assess good remote work culture

13 October 2021

How To Assess Good Remote Work Culture

Remote working became the new norm for many of us during the pandemic, but now that companies are starting to offer remote work positions out of choice rather than due to legislation, we are having to rethink our interview questions.

Communication, trust and structure are all extremely important aspects of remote working that have to be addressed appropriately for an efficient, and organized work environment. We dive into why as well as example questions to ask at interview.

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Structure

A good way to test whether your prospective company is organised, is to ask about their onboarding process. Ideally they will have a long term plan in place to introduce you to your team members and relevant colleagues, familiarize you with the programs and tools that they work with, and add you to relevant chat groups.

Structure is the single most important thing a remote working “office” requires. With no physical limitations it’s easy for communication lines, plans and people to drift apart. Projects can become lost in obscurity if colleagues all work different hours, have too many communication tools and no system of work organization.

When working from an office for example, it is simple to just grab everyone and bring them into a meeting, but remotely you have to give advanced warning, and be prepared to adapt to individual schedules. Scheduling is everything, and without it and some clear work/life balance rules an organised office can break down into an out of hours chaotic mess.

 

Communication

The best way to delve into this at interview is to ask simply: How do you primarily communicate? The answer might list various tools, so make sure you dig into each and why they use them, you can quickly discover the company’s communication style, are they big on meetings or do they prefer messages? Do they use Slack, Teams or Zoom? Get as much information as you can.

When you don’t have the convenience of simply turning to the person next to you, it is important to have regular, clear communication between teammates.This requires an appropriate communication tool that fits the needs of your organisation, and that staff have a detailed understanding of how to use said tool efficiently.

It also requires that everyone knows what is required of them in terms of communication best practices, such as, which tool is appropriate for which scenario, when is it appropriate to message someone etc. Many of these sound like minor issues that you would expect to be in place at a common sense level, but it is not always the case, so always qualify, never assume.

 

Trust

The plain fact of it is that your manager can’t simply look over to see if you are working and this can be problematic for them. The secret fear that employees are pulling the wool over their eyes has led to a plethora of spyware, enabling overzealous oversight of every aspect of your working day, even down to your last mouse movement.

The threat of this kind of spyware is the very worst kind of micromanagement, intrusive to the point of being a threat to mental health. Remote workers deal with the possibility of an unwanted volume of messages at best, and literal spyware at worst, so it is very important to probe for this at interview. The best way to ask a potential manager this is to ask for their management style in relation to their current team.

Having a healthy work environment in any job requires trust, something that requires a leap of faith in remote roles. Despite many studies showing that remote workers are both more productive and tend to work longer hours than their office bound counterparts, trust is still a major factor in remote environments.

 

Remote responsibility

Your responsibility as a remote candidate is to make sure you ask the right questions, not hope the grass is greener. You have to come away from an interview knowing how a company works and what they will expect, so make sure you do your homework. Only then can you accept or reject an offer with confidence instead of uncertainty.

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