Employers have a right to ask you about your workspace and your ability to manage on your own, now that you are likely to start a new job by working from home. You don’t need to showcase an Instagram perfect loft, but you do need to prove you can manage to get everything done in an orderly way. Be prepared to speak about the stellar self-management techniques you use to ensure your productivity. Be ready to discuss and showcase how you arrange your space so everything is tidy, organized optimally, and arranged to be professional yet comfortable during an eight-hour day.

Here are five “work-from-home” questions plus sample answers to give you ideas about how to respond in an ideal manner. Be sure to craft and practice your own answers so the information you give is authentic as well as appropriate.

1. How do you schedule your day?

Typically, I’m up at 7 am for my workout and then at my desk at 8:30 am. Not having a commute to school or work has made me really productive. If I’m on a group project, I check in with my team using Slack and attend any scheduled meetings. Then, I set aside a block of time to get my work done. At noon, I grab a bite to eat and check my personal social media accounts. By 1 pm, I’m usually doing research for a project or if I have meetings, of course, that’s my priority. I end my day with a note to my teammates so they’re updated. In the evenings, I read the news, watch media, stay up-to-date on Instagram or YouTube, read blogs, and Facetime or Zoom with friends. I usually check email before bed. That’s a typical day.

2. How do you use different communication tools in different situations?

Email is my go-to for confirming meetings or sharing anything I’ll probably want to reference later. I use texts or instant messaging for communicating during the day. I typically use Zoom for meetings or for any time when I want to have a group interaction so I can see people and really get a sense of how they’re feeling about something – beyond just reading or hearing what they have to say in a text, discussion thread, or email.

3. How is your physical workspace organized?

My desk and laptop are command central. My calendar is online of course, but I also keep an old-school version with a handwritten list of to-do’s that I check off.  I also keep paper files of anything I print out to edit, on a shelf nearby. I have a stack of three books on the desk to set my laptop on, so my video meetings are at eye-level. I have a really comfortable chair and I make sure to get up or work standing up at least once an hour. 

4. How do you organize files, links, and tabs on your computer?

I have a Dropbox account so everything I create or want to archive is there. I have a coding system for labeling files so it’s easy to search. In the document title, I put the name of the project, task, and then date of the revision. Then, I have a file for each project so the documents or content for the project are all grouped together. I use a bookmarking system so I can access the links I use regularly. And each night before I’m done for the day, I go through any open tabs or documents on my laptop to make sure I’ve put everything away so I can start fresh in the morning.

5. What do you do when a project seems like it will take longer than expected or run past the deadline you’ve been given?

After working on so many group projects, I’ve learned to keep communicating with team members. I generally know how long something is going to take me – whether it’s research, writing a report, analyzing data, doing outreach by email, or coordinating with other people. But when I’ve estimated incorrectly or for any reason it’s possible that I’m going to need more time, I reach out right away and let people know as soon as I get that sense. I’ve learned it’s much better to ask permission for more time than try to get forgiven for being late. So my method for meeting deadlines includes good planning, realistic estimates, making my best effort to be on time with my work, and communicating as soon as anything comes up that will impact my timing.

Next Steps

  1. Read each question and answer carefully.
  2. Evaluate how closely your work environment and work style matches or deviates from the answer you see.
  3. Consider how you might change the way you are currently working so your process and environment are more ideal.
  4. Craft authentic answers that reflect how you work – or plan to work.
  5. Practice your answers so you are ready to deliver them with confidence!