Interviewee questions: the physical environment

This post is part of the Do you have any questions for me? series.

No matter where I work, I want to have a nice environment. If I commute to work every day, my employer is responsible for all aspects of my environment, including my space, shared space and shared amenities. If I accept a remote job, then my employer is still responsible for certain parts, such as making sure I have a nice computer and laptop.

For in-office work

  1. Can I see the desk/area where I’ll be working, please?

    This is a very easy request (with an exception perhaps for highly classified locations). If I’m going to be spending 40 or more hours a week in a chair for the foreseeable future, I’d like to know what I’m getting myself into. Everyone’s limits may be different; mine is that my private office has to have a door, but even if you’re comfortable in an open office environment, you probably want to see what the noise levels are like, if the decor is depressing, and who else is in your area. Walking around the office space for five minutes should do the trick.

  2. Are there expected to be any changes to the office environment in the coming months/years?

    This one is tricky, because people aren’t likely to know. If they do, however, this might set a red flag (“this space which currently seats 20 will have 50 people in a few months”) or may dampen the effects of some of the red flags (“here’s a sketch of what the office will look like two weeks from Wednesday when we finally install the pink elephant sparkles”).

  3. What are the expected working hours and dress code?

    For most positions in software engineering, there’s no real justification for an answer that is stricter than “be in the office during the day and don’t show up naked”.

  4. Tell me about standard amenities: parking, EV charging, corporate cafeteria, coffee machine, soft drinks. All of these should be available on-site and cheap (or free) for employees.

For remote work

  1. What kind of setup can I get?

    I don’t have a home office, just a spare bedroom. This means that the company will have to help me get it set up. Ideally I can shop for a desk and chair of my choosing, within a reasonable budget. My employer should also provide a desktop and laptop (or perhaps a laptop and screen or docking station; I don’t want to have to work on a laptop screen from my home office).

  2. What are the expected working hours?

    For remote work, especially across many timezones, the answer to this question will be nontrivial and it is important to set expectations. For example, a nine-to-fiver in New York will be seen as leaving the office at 2pm every day by a company in California. This may or may not be acceptable, depending on the culture and nature of the job.