These days, a growing number of companies are embracing the remote work trend by allowing employees to telecommute, either on a partial or full-time basis. Working remotely offers a number of benefits: savings on commuting, more flexibility, and better work-life balance overall.
If you're eager to work remotely, you may be wondering when it's acceptable to broach that topic. After all, you don't want to drag yourself through an extended interview process, only to discover four weeks down the line that the employer you've been speaking to isn't open to remote work at all. On the other hand, you're no doubt aware that making demands in an interview is likely to land you a spot on any given company's "rejected candidates" list.
The question is: Can you bring up remote work during an interview, or must you wait until an official job offer is extended to address the topic?
Treading a fine line
There are certain topics that are generally considered taboo during a job interview. Take salary, for example. Demanding to know what you'll be paid for a given role is a sure way to take yourself out of the running.
Remote employment, however, falls into a different category, particularly because it's become so common in today's workforce. Therefore, you may be OK to bring it up during an early interview -- but under the right circumstances.
For one thing, don't ask point-blank whether you'll be allowed to do your job remotely. Rather, ask about the company's general policy. You might phrase the question as: "Do most employees work in the office full time, or are there a lot of remote employees?" If you ask the question this way, it doesn't seem like you're making demands; rather, it seems like you're innocently inquiring about the office dynamic.
Furthermore, once you're past an initial interview, it may be alright to blatantly ask if your specific position is one that lends itself to remote work -- but be prepared to not get a straight answer. Until an offer is actually presented, the company you're talking to may not want to commit to that sort of arrangement.
Furthermore, some employers have a policy that the option to work remotely is only granted after employees have been on the payroll for a pre-set period of time and have proven themselves worthy of that privilege. Therefore, don't be shocked if the answer you get is something along the lines of "We'll see."
How important is remote work to you?
While you may be able to get away with broaching the topic of remote work in an interview, you're generally better off waiting for an offer to land in your lap before bringing it up (unless you're asking in the context of understanding the office dynamic, as mentioned earlier).
At the same time, it helps to decide how important that benefit is to you before moving forward with the interview process. If not being able to work remotely is a true deal-breaker, and you find out that most employees do, in fact, report to the office every day, then you might bow out after an initial interview and save yourself -- and the company in question -- valuable time.