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How Job Seekers Can Spot Potentially Toxic Hybrid Workplaces

The questions to ask before taking a hybrid job you'll regret

By Erin Flynn Jay

People looking for jobs now are often hoping to find ones letting them work from home sometimes and in the office sometimes. But some hybrid workplaces can be toxic, according to a recent study by the FlexJobs site, and if you're job hunting, you'll want to try to suss out potential toxicity before accepting a position.

A woman looking stressed while working from home. Next Avenue, hybrid work
Credit: getty

FlexJobs has identified 10 red flags that could signal a hybrid company will become a toxic place to grow a career.

In May 2021, The McKinsey & Co. consulting firm published a report saying that nine out of 10 companies plan to move to some form of a hybrid working model (pandemic permitting). The move to a hybrid work environment has become the inevitable outcome of the work-from-home experiment caused by the pandemic.

And it's popular with employees: An Accenture survey of 9,000 workers showed that 83% of workers view the hybrid workplace as optimal.

Hybrid Work Red Flags to Watch For

Yet FlexJobs has identified 10 red flags that could signal a hybrid company will become a toxic place to grow a career.

A few of them:

  • The employer lacks a real plan to create a functioning hybrid workforce
  • No senior leaders work remotely
  • Digital communications tools haven’t been prioritized
  • Celebration, praise and rewards only happen in the office
  • There’s a lack of a career path for remote employees
  • Employees are told they need to use paid time off or take a pay cut to work remotely
  • Remote workers aren’t given the appropriate equipment

Cidnye Work (yes, that's her name), an Austin, Texas-based career coach at Flexjobs and Remote.co, said that as hybrid workplaces become more prevalent, job seekers must pay attention to these types of red flags.

If you ask questions to uncover possible red flags and then find that the employer's hybrid policies are applied unfairly, without clear reasoning and explanation or without the proper technology, Work said, you may have detected a bad place to hold a job.

"Companies that are genuinely attempting to do this well are more likely to have this information easily available on their career pages," said Work.

A woman with outstretched arms on a mountian top. Next Avenue, work from home, hybrid work
Nicole Vasquez of Deskpass says there are a few key questions to ask before taking a hybrid workplace job  |  Credit: Nicole Vasquez

Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

She added that social media and job sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor can help provide you with first-hand perspectives from employees who work at places you're considering.

Work recommended asking these questions in a job interview to learn more about an employer's hybrid policies:

  • Are people at all levels of the organization allowed to have a hybrid schedule?
  • What are the expectations for coming into the office vs. working at home?
  • Is the employer setting these guidelines or letting individual teams decide what works best?
  • How is information distributed to employees whether they’re working in the office or at home?
  • What new programs or initiatives is the employer offering, or planning to, so everyone has a fair and equitable experience in a hybrid environment?
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To get even more specific, Nicole Vasquez, co-founder and chief people officer at the flexible workspace provider Deskpass, recommended asking these questions during a hybrid job interview:

  • What are the expectations for working hours?
  • How often are in-person meetings scheduled? Where and when are they held?
  • How do employees get access to a professional workspace or meeting space as needed?
  • What are the current workplace culture activities and initiatives?
  • What are the rules for virtual communication? How are meetings with a mix of in-person and virtual attendees handled?

Vasquez added that it is important that remote jobs avoid what's known as "proximity bias." That's when virtual workers are left out of collaboration or advancement opportunities because they're not in the office as much as others, or at all.

Watch out for restrictive policies around virtual communication that aren't inclusive for people with different types of home environments.

"There should be clear metrics for success for each role, and a path for professional advancement," said Vasquez. "There should also be explicit expectations for remote workers — for example, when employees should be online and when in-person meetings (if any) will be held and where."

One more tip: watch out for restrictive policies around virtual communication that aren't inclusive for people with different types of home environments.

For example, Vasquez said the inability for remote workers to use virtual backgrounds when working from home if an employee wants to keep their home environment private should stand out as a red flag.

Photograph of Erin Flynn Jay
Erin Flynn Jay is a writer, publicity expert and author of Mastering the Mommy Track: Juggling Career and Kids In Uncertain Times. Read More
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