can you ask to see your future workspace before accepting a job offer?

A reader writes:

Is there a way to ask to see your future workspace before you accept a job offer or at some point in the interview process, without it being strange?

Several years ago I accepted a job that I would never have taken if I had known I would be spending all day, every day, in a tiny, interior, windowless office lit with only dim desk lamps with ancient repurposed writing desks instead of actual computer desks. That job left me with a herniated disc in my neck from the horrible ergonomics and caused some mental health issues from working for six months in an office where I literally never saw natural light before I quit.

My newish job is also in an interior office, although thankfully with decent lighting and actual office furniture, but I know it’s going to be rough in the winter when it’ll be dark when I come to and from work. I can deal for now because we’re hybrid, but if we return to five days in office, I’ll be miserable.

I’ve come to realize how much of a difference a well-planned office can make in how you interact with people and how awful it is to spend your workdays in a closet-like office, to the point where it would be a pretty significant factor in deciding whether I would take a job or not. But I can’t figure out how to tell an employer that I’d need to know what the office set-up is, and specifically where I might end up, before I could commit to a job.

Yeah, it’s weird that this isn’t a standard part of all hiring processes, because there’s a huge amount of information you get by seeing what the work set-up is like, and it’s something that can have an enormous impact on what your day-to-day quality of life will be in that job. A lot of managers do make a tour a standard part of their interview process, but a lot don’t.

If you’re interviewing in person, one option is to say at the end of the meeting, “Would it be possible for me to see the space this role works from?” Say it pleasantly and matter-of-factly, like you’re asking something normal and unremarkable, because it is a normal and unremarkable thing to want to see.

If you’re offered the job without having interviewed in person (but would be working in their office if you accept), it’s fine to say, “I haven’t had the chance to see the workplace in person yet and would love to get a better feel for it before I accept. Could we set up a short in-person meeting this week, even if it’s just 10 minutes for me to come by to get a quick sense of the office?”

If they balk at that, that should give you pause.

Of course, with stuff like this, you always need to keep in mind that it could change after you start working there. You could start out with a luxuriously equipped private office with furniture of the finest Corinthian leather, and six months in they could bump you into a cubicle in basement because someone more senior needs the space, or could switch to hot-desking, or it could turn out that your workspace smells like a dead corpse half the year or becomes infested by ghosts … but it’s still reasonable to want to get a look at where they plan to put you before you commit.

{ 232 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Or the lease runs out. Or you get assigned to a project where you’re physically working in the customer’s space.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah for my money a flexible attitude towards working from home is more important than the current set-up of the office although anything can change. Maybe an acceptable combination of both …

    2. OMG, Bees!*

      Yeah, I worked at a company that had a decent office space in the marina (no good view, but nearby cool stuff), then later moved to a basement in downtown with a cockroach problem.

      But this post reminded me of the poor woman who is horribly allergic to dogs and got hired at a very dog friendly place, but didn’t know they brought in dogs until her first day. Had she seen the desk during the interview, she would have had that knowledge first.

    1. Observer*

      Not necessarily. You don’t have to have a formal ergonomics plan to offer decent ergonomics. Having said that, acting as though asking about ergonomics is a problem or strange *is* a real tell.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I think everywhere I’ve worked, the answer to this would be: We buy standard office furniture and follow the ADA interactive process if that doesn’t work for anyone.

    3. Blarg*

      I worked at an office once where the director happened to have a real passion for ergonomics and budgeted for every new hire to have a consultant come in and do an assessment. The guy was so great! He noticed one incredibly forehead slap thing for me (I only see out of one eye, but had my dual monitors set up in a v-shape like most people do, which resulted in me turning my head slightly a bazillion times a day to see both screens). Haven’t had that kind of eval since but I still use what I learned from him. That job was at a state agency, too! Not known for spending money on stuff. And if he suggested you get a special chair or desk or whatever, you got it.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        For the first few years at OldJob, we had an ergonomics person who set people up when they were new (bless you, little footstool!). She retired and was never replaced, but I tried to help a friend with repetitive injuries in the same job I was with something that worked for me with the caveat that her mileage might vary.

  2. TJames*

    Corinthian leather doesn’t actually exist. It’s just plain old leather. The term was coined by Chrysler’s ad agency in the 1970s to make the car’s upholstery seem classier than it was, and because it sounded hot when Ricardo Montalban said it.

      1. arjumand*

        My favourite was when Ricardo Montalban became a (Khan inspired) villain on Freakazoid: not only was there the ‘finest Corinthian leather’ line, but an added “Look! I am surrounded by beautiful women!”

        Everyone always quotes his riposte whenever Freakazoid called him a weenie (No! It is YOU who are the weenie!) but my personal favourite was “Laugh with me, laugh with me!” to his henchmen.

    1. Goody*

      For years, i was under the mistaken impression that it was fake leather. Like “patent leather” shoes..

      1. It’s Suzy Now*

        But Patent Leather is real leather with a glossy coating.

        Although there is fake patent leather now too, of course.

      2. Gumby*

        Naugahyde – hide from only the best naugas. I actually do own a chair that was (re?)upholstered in naugahyde in the 70s at some point. Maybe earlier. I inherited it.

        1. Prorata*

          Those poor nauga’s… you have any idea how many nauga’s it takes to upholster a chair???

          The company behind naugahyde actually markets nauga toys.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              The classic one is like a happy little Abominable Snowman!! (Spell check wants that to be abdominal but I caught it in the act!)

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Not only does my mother have naugahyde chairs, I helped her re-upholster them in fresh naugahyde a decade or so back.

    2. Leathersplainer*

      Surely most people who reference it these days are well aware of the context/history, but thanks for chiming in!

    3. Don't Be Longsuffering*

      I was reading the post and thought hey, I haven’t heard of Corinthian leather in ages. And now that I’ve traveled, why would Corinth have special leather? I gotta look this up. Your comment was faster, so thanks.
      And yes, Ricardo Montalban any time or day!

  3. Richard Hershberger*

    “the finest Corinthian leather”

    The canonical phrase is “rich Corinthian leather.” I am old enough to remember Ricardo Montalbán saying it in those commercials.

    1. Caz*

      I’ve been asking to see the area where I’d be working for years, it’s never been an issue. Once – my first time going for a job managing a team – I managed to arrange to see the space before the interview. Thanks to that look ahead, I was able to anticipate problems the team would face (they were split between three offices, holy communication issues Batman) and was therefore prepared to discuss how I’d address them in the interview. I was at that job for nearly 5 years.

  4. McDeets*

    I agree– it’s very important to get an idea where you will likely be spending the majority of your weekday waking hours! I have worked in two interior office spaces, and agree, they were the worst. I prefer my current cubicle setup MUCH better, as it allows for some interaction with coworkers, and provides some natural light as well.

    Related: My last job moved people around constantly, and it truly sucked. Management didn’t seem to understand how unimportant and interchangeable it made regular staff feel. (Of course, senior people who came into the office far less frequently than the run-of-the-mill staff rarely, if ever, had to move.)

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I also agree! I once taught at an after school program that was in a community center in the basement of a larger building. The only two windows in the entire building were in the front entry and the main office, both of which were tiny windows up high (because basement). When they asked if I would like to up my hours there I had to decline because I absolutely couldn’t deal with the lack of light. I worked late hours in those days and would get up some days just in time to get to work, then I would leave work in the dark and it was terrible for my mental health. The guy asking if I wanted to teach more hours didn’t understand at all when I said I needed more light, sorry. Apparently some people don’t even notice light vs dark?* When I was asked to up my hours at another place that had nice large windows in all the teaching rooms, I quit the basement job and never looked back.

      * But then again some people also don’t have SAD. Sure would be nice if I didn’t and didn’t worry so much about light vs. dark.

      1. Artemesia*

        A friend with that type office bought those special lights immediately to combat the SAD and says it works fairly well. Better to have a view of course, but a Magrite window poster and a SAD light can mitigate the gloom.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, SAD lights work for some but didn’t do much for me, unfortunately. Taking a vacation to someplace warm helps a lot but that isn’t always in the cards and of course costs a lot more.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Thank you for reminding me about my SAD light! I have it worst at this time of year (because the daylight drops dramatically).

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            OMG, Sept is one of the worst months for me! I mourn the end of long summer days more now knowing that it’s the longest we have to wait for them to come back. Even though (thanks, global warming) it still stays warm for a while where I live. Just proving that it’s all psychological anyway.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It’s not psychological or the warmth — it’s the light itself. Otherwise it wouldn’t help SAD inclines folks to sit in front of specific frequency lamps.

        3. Carit*

          I was looking for this! The LW might want to (I vote “should”!) look into full spectrum sunlamps.

          Real, therapeutic ones (mine is a desk model from a company called SunBox) are amazing – high intensity, limited time exposure, perceptible to dramatic improvement. I usually start using it late September through April.

          In the US, therapeutic sunlamps are often covered by insurance in part or wholly (especially further north – mine was).

          When I was living in the far north, I would swap out one of every block of three ceiling bulbs in the lab with a full spectrum one for late fall and winter. Trivial fix, but it made a huge difference for the grad students. And me. Even those without SAD generally benefit.

          Seriously worth considering!
          /soapbox PSA

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I live in Seattle, where late fall/winter is literally called The Big Dark. The limited light means that people routinely go to work and come home in the dark–the limited daylight occurs when they’re inside working (if it’s not raining.) SAD is a huge thing here.

        My bosses were super smart when they remodeled the phone center and went from interior with no windows to giant bank of glass where we can watch the crows and pigeons daily soap opera.

        1. Quill*

          I’ve noticed that I’m literally better at my job when we have windows. I am essentially the office plant.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I had a friend who worked in a plant nursery and basically hibernated from January till March till she got the full-spectrum lamp.

      3. Lisa Simpson*

        I worked in an interior space, no windows for years. At first it was weird, people would come in and say to me “Gorgeous day outside!” or “Did you see it’s snowing?” or “Wow that was a nasty thunderstorm we had!” and I had no idea. But we had bright soft white lights and the space was kept warm, and eventually I grew to appreciate it. No matter the weather outside, it was a sunny, balmy summer day inside. In the Northeast in winter it was great.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I was once offered a temp job working for PG&E – you may know them from having caused multiple wildfires in California and just generally being awful. This job would have not only been temporary forever, with no benefits, but would also have been based in the badly-lit basement of their HQ. I was SO GLAD to get another job offer that meant I didn’t have to work in their basement!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The electric company didn’t bother to properly light their employees’ workspace?

        That would be kind of comical if it weren’t so depressing.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          People didn’t know as much about how awful they are in those days (this was around 2006), but yeah, the lack of lightning should definitely have been a clue that something was up. The job involved working on their energy efficiency programme, so maybe they thought the lighting was appropriate for the work topic!

    3. Sloanicota*

      I would definitely have to ask, because I would consider a partially in-office role if everything else was perfect, but *not* if that in-office setting was a terrible cube farm. I served my time in the cube mines and I’m never ever going back. The noise, the lack of natural light, and the management panopticon …

      1. I Have RBF*

        I was actually nostalgic for cubes when I got stuffed into an open plan (no cubes) for the last 10 years before I went remote. You could tell just how cheap the company was by how small your desk was and how much they lied about “collaboration” as the excuse to cram folks together like sardines.

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I worked for a year in a law office. All the lawyers had offices with windows and they all kept their doors closed shutting out any natural light. My desk was out in the reception area with florescent overhead lights. It was a very quiet space and some days the only people I saw were the mailman and the custodian. A year was a year too long.

      1. Coin Purse*

        Once in a staff meeting my last boss said “I don’t know why you all complain so much about the office set up, the place is brand new!”. Cube farm. One of my colleagues said: “well, you have an office with a door”. Dead silence.

  5. Mimmy*

    I’d be wary of a bait and switch scenario: They show you a space that seems reasonably comfortable and well-equipped, but then once you start, it turns out you’re actually in the closet-like office. Yes, things can change as Alison points out, but I’d be asking myself how honest they’re being. Yes, I can be a bit of a cynic.

    One suggestion I do want to offer: If you are invited for an in-person interview, try and take a glance at the surroundings as you are being led to the room where the interview is taking place. It wouldn’t offer everything you’d want to know, but you might at least get an idea of the general layout and atmosphere–does it seem to be a cubicle farm, is it open space, is it bustling or calm…? Etc.

    1. Roy Donk*

      This happened to me! At my in-person interview I asked where I would be sitting and was shown a small empty office with a window. When I arrived for my first day I was directed to an interior cubicle. When I inquired about the change I was informed that because I was remote 2 days a week it had been decided that I didn’t need an office. Fine, but I was really bummed and felt a bit misled.

      1. Pat*

        I’m so glad our office has floor to ceiling windows all the way around, so even though we’re in small cubicles, there’s a lot of light. I, too, have SAD, so it makes a huge difference. Plus, if I walk over to the window and look out, I can see the dog park across the street!

    2. Observer*

      If you are invited for an in-person interview, try and take a glance at the surroundings as you are being led to the room where the interview is taking place. It wouldn’t offer everything you’d want to know, but you might at least get an idea of the general layout and atmosphere

      I think that this is a good idea. Because any one office can look good, but the overall setup tells you more about what you can expect longer term.

      1. D*


        I once had an interview where, when I walked in, the dehumidifier on the receptionist’s desk looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months (it was disgusting) and the office was quieter than a library in the middle of the night. No one looked up or smiled at me and it just seemed *sad*. Huge red flag.

        (the second red flag was that the interviewers didn’t seem to know which position I was interviewing for).

      2. Chili Heeler*

        And keep in mind what time of day it is. I’ve interviewed at places before work, over lunch, and after hours. This can show you some things but not as much as if you’re there when everyone is more likely to be working. At my current job, my team sits in a fairly open area. If I’d interviewed during the quieter hours, I’d be concerned about noise. Luckily, I was always there during busy hours and got a much better sense of the actual noise level.

    3. Lisa Simpson*

      I worked in a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. It was awesome. Most people thought it was disgusting and refused to go back there, so no one ever bothered me.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I would love that so much!

        I once had an office in an actual attic. There was a dormer window, but you had to walk a few feet in to look out of it. And there was a exterior door to our office suite. It was wonderfully quiet.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Doesn’t even have to be a deliberate bait-and-switch. At my current job, my team has switched offices three times in the last four years. So you can’t necessarily count on whatever space being the actual space… even if it is the actual space right now. You should still ask to see it, though.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        There’s a song called “Moving the Bones” that covers that problem (spoiler: everyone ends up back right where they started).

    5. Clara*

      In my last two jobs, I’ve asked to have a coffee in the office with my new boss before accepting and asked to be walked round the space then. They’ve always thought it was a great idea, and probably different from ‘this is your actual office’ because you get to see some of what the options could be.

  6. Coco*

    If you are interviewing via Zoom, my first thought would be to ask for a “quick virtual tour of the workspace”. Although that only works if the interviewer is on site and if they are willing to carry around a laptop… So that might not be a feasible option.

    You could also ask them to describe the workspace. But bad employers who have bad workspaces might intentionally mislead you.

    1. Clisby*

      Maybe … but people vary considerably in what they consider “good” or “bad” workspaces. My husband, who might lead a secret life as a vampire, hates natural light in an office. Our home office, where he works occasionally, has closed blinds covering every window so the dreaded natural light won’t create glare. His workplace has a big (and not at all crowded) open office space with a ton of natural light, and he claimed the interior office that’s dark unless he chooses to turn the light on.

    2. McS*

      You can’t necessarily ask to see your workstation because they likely won’t assign it until after you accept. And since desk moves are something most companies do commonly and without consulting each employee it doesn’t really matter. But asking for a tour the office space to get a sense of what it will be like to work there is extremely reasonable. In addition to ergonomic standards, you’ll get a sense of how loud it is, how my people collaborate, how much space there is for meetings and whether it’s always full, not to mention where to keep your lunch on your first day.

    3. Observer*

      You could also ask them to describe the workspace. But bad employers who have bad workspaces might intentionally mislead you.

      I would not worry about that too much. Not because there are not bad employers, but most don’t have the ability to lie effectively about this stuff, as long as you are getting reasonably factual answers. Like if they say “Oh we have fabulous offices” then you know nothing. But they are not likely to say “everyone has an individual office” when they really just have a totally open office. etc. So you might not get all of the information you need, but it could give you a decent amount of information to start with.

    4. Beth*

      If I’m interviewing for an in-person job, I’d ideally want at least one round of the process to be in person. Zoom is great for reducing travel time and expenses, and it’s absolutely fine for all rounds if the job is fully remote (since your computer IS your workspace then). But it feels weird to start an in-person job without ever having been there before your first day.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, me too, but if for some reason that’s really not a possibility, I’d definitely at least expect a virtual tour!
        Also, I wouldn’t feel too bad about asking about the office setup. Especially if it would, in fact, be a knockout criterium for you, I’d just say out straight “sorry for the weird question, but I’ve worked in a cramped windowless basement without a proper desk before, so I’m a little scarred – would you mind describing what your office is like?”
        I’d assume a reasonable manager would be horrified by the idea and quickly assure you that there are, in fact, windows and desks (or “oh no, our basement is great and not cramped at all”, which also would give you the information you need…)

        I mean, I’d take the job with our without windows because that’s not something I particularly care about, so I’d probably be a little reluctant to ask just in case they don’t have windows and are then worried/upset! But if you’d actually not take the job if that’s the case, what’s the worst that can happen?

  7. HonorBox*

    I think it is totally fair to ask to see the workspace. If the office setup isn’t one that would be comfortable for you, that’s certainly part of your decision process. We always show people around the office following an in-person interview. We also tell every new hire that if there’s something they’d like different in their office (chair, standing desk, lamp, etc.) to ask. I think it is part of setting up an environment in which people don’t dread coming to work simply because they’re in a crappy space or sitting uncomfortably all day.

    1. Artemesia*

      More than the space because having been moved half a dozen times in my workplace I know things change, but more than the space, I’d want to know ergonomics policy. Can you get a stand/sit desk; can you get a chair that works for your back without a Presidential directive or complex medical papertrail. If they are willing to buy me a chair, I feel a lot better about the future.

      1. HonorBox*

        Great point. We don’t have a formal policy, but when someone asks for a chair, our office manager simply says “send me your choice from this site or this other site.” Or “if you know of one that will work at (local store) just go right ahead.”

      2. Observer*

        but more than the space, I’d want to know ergonomics policy.

        Yes. We’ve seen some doozies on this site.

      3. Common Sense Not Common*

        Very good point.

        I’ve been at more than one company where it took 9 months to a year to get through all the red tape to get a proper chair.

        Some companies may show you a workspace but then you find out that coworkers jockeyed around for better accommodations without the knowledge or approval of your manager. Or they pilfered the chair, lamp… because it was better than what they had.

        I’ve seen coworkers take chairs, lamps, staplers, etc. you name it, if they know or think it’s better then what they have they’ll take it.

          1. LabSnep*

            I almost spent an entire week of offshifts oncrwithout a marker and had to beg someone for one because someone took the new one from my pocket and replaced it with one that didn’t work, and the supply cabinet is locked after hours.

            I need a marker for my job. Someone came through.

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      We always know when someone is interviewing well at my workplace because they get the full tour. I found it really helpful when I interviewed because it gave me a feel for the building, the people, and a peek into the culture.

      I think it’s a great idea if you feel the interview has gone well to ask if the interviewer has time to give you a brief tour. Otherwise, ask where the restrooms are and sneak a peek on the way there.

  8. Juicebox Hero*

    I moved to a different office during the summer, and now that it’s fall I’ve got squirrels chucking acorns at my window.

    It’s not as strange as the time a peanut butter jar hit me in the head as I walked under a tree but it still startles me every time. (That was another squirrel, who must have hauled the jar out of someone’s garbage, wrestled it up into the tree, and been royally peeved at losing their prize.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Just don’t open your window, you might have a squirrel come in. In my first job, one of the upper men fed the squirrels on his window sill. (we were upper floor). One got in, and I took part in the chase, capture and release. Being a lab, I used a very large beaker and a board underneath.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Thankfully, I do have a screen so I can get fresh air without worrying about infiltration and ambush.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I had a pigeon hop up to greet me a few weeks back–luckily it didn’t fly into the room, panic, and poop on every surface! Keep those windows closed now.

      3. Not the office dog*

        I definitely thought that last sentence was going to go “Being a lab, my retrieval skills are excellent” and thoroughly enjoyed the mental image of a retriever commenting on ask a manager

      4. amoeba*

        We sometimes get little lizards! They’re all over campus and I’ve also had to trap one with a beaker in our lab. Apparently I’m not the only one that happened to. Don’t think that can easily be prevented, because they’re so tiny, but luckily they don’t cause a lot of trouble and are easy to catch and release…

      5. Quill*

        When my mom was still a teacher, one of the most infamous inservices of her career started with the phrase “Hey, you teach science” and ended with mass squirrel relocation using the janitor’s mop bucket.

      6. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Colbert had a video of someone attacked by squirrels while he was a Zoom meeting. Apparently not the first time, either.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Squirrels are straight up thugs. “Nice picnic lunch…shame if something happened to it.” *flicks tiny switchblade*

  9. short-legged one*

    I think it’s also important to remember that there might be issues of privacy in hiring that come into play. I’d prefer a tour and to see things myself, but what about when they’re exploring staffing options but don’t know for sure how it will end up and don’t want the rest of staff to get their hopes up?

    1. Ashley*

      I did a late day interview and toured when almost no one was there. The building tour was super helpful not just to see my space, but to see the entire office. It is valid for more then just where is my desk, but what is the break room kitchen like, is there space to eat lunch or am I eating at my desk, are bathrooms nearby or floors away, etc.

    2. amoeba*

      Huh, I don’t think I’ve ever had an on-site interview where I didn’t meet multiple potential coworkers – not having that would actually be more of a red flag than not seeing the office!

      (I know not all fields have all day interviews with multiple panels and lunch at the canteen, it’s just so hard for me to imagine any other way… how do you decide to work at a place after an hour with one person?)

  10. soontoberetired*

    I’ve worked for the same company over 30 years. No desk arrangement has lasted more than 5 years. Someone constantly has a bright idea of how much better it could be (aka worse) and things change. so yes, remember desk arrangements are always temporary.

    And “hot desking” or hoteling sucks.

    1. Artemesia*

      Only excuse for hot desking is most of the workforce is remote most of the time. If I am coming in once or twice a week or less, I can’t expect my own desk — I can however expect my own locker.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        It’s a vicious cycle. I would go into the office more if I could have my desk set up how I like it rather than putting everything in my locker at the end of the day! So it’s twice a week for me.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      My office does hotelling for people who work from home 3+ days a week even though there are enough offices for everyone to have an assigned office. They installed lockers 2 months ago but no one can use them, and when I ask about it, crickets.

      1. soontoberetired*

        we have that issue. I don’t have a space I can lock even though I have a regular assigned desk, and the hotel desks lack lockers for coats. There’s something set up somewhere but where is the question.

  11. The Unfrazzled Project Manager*

    I went from a beautiful office with a window to work from home during the Covid shutdown days. When they pulled us back, they moved me to another campus that took me from a 15 minute easy drive commute to a 45-60 minute commute of stressful highway driving and an office that used to be a literal storage closet. Then they said “Good news- we are moving everyone to hot desking in a giant, noisy, open office! We know you have jobs that require a high amount of concentration and have a ton of private data, but you can figure it out. Nobody will be allowed to work from home though. That’s not going to be a thing.” The shocked Pikachu face I got when I quit for a fully WFH job I got was *priceless.*

    I think this is a fair ask- I would never had taken that job if I had known they were going to move me to the other campus, which apparently was in the works even pre-Covid. Nobody mentioned it to me, and it would have absolutely been a deal breaker. A huge reason I was leaving my other job was the horribly stressful commute in heavy traffic. I was taking a pay cut in part to have an easier drive. I do ask to see my workspace in interviews and very few people have balked, and if I ever have an in office job again, I will also be asking if there are any immediate plans for moves to another campus if a move to that other campus is a deal breaker to me.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Corporations really do pull this ish and then are shocked – SHOCKED!! – that people leave! It is truly baffling.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, they act like losing your actual office and being stuck in an open plan, on top of a doubled commute, is no big deal, and treat anyone who objects as simply being “change averse” or “not resilient”. They trot out “collaboration”, “togetherness” like it’s a magic wand that will somehow smooth over the hideous inconvenience and decreased quality of the day like it’s a freaking magic wand! They make my life harder in multiple ways at once but they think I’m not going to object? They must be smoking some good shit.

  12. Fluffy Fish*

    My office has moved 6 times in 16 years with my current employer and will move again within probably 2 years to a space that isn’t even designed yet. Govt can be a little unhinged about changing spaces to accommodate growth etc.

    I say this just to underscore that if workspace is really important to you you may want to also ask questions like – how long has the company been in their current space and how fast is the company growing.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Industry can be pretty bad too. At my previous job, I worked in a new location every two years on average, at three main locations around the larger metro area, and then in multiple buildings in and around the last location. The “best” was when we got kicked out of a great building (the view! the onsite gym! the decent on-site cafeteria!), only to have the group replacing us decide not to leave their last location.

      As for the workspace, it ran the gamut between no-wall totally open floor plan to high-wall cubes, older beat-up stuff to brand new furniture, structurally sound buildings to some that felt pretty darn temporary, tiny narrow windows or entire walls of windows. Asking to see the space isn’t a bad idea, but it really might not be that informative in the long run.

    2. SarahKay*

      At the other extreme, in my last role I was literally in the same desk, in the same office (with a huge wall of windows) for 15 years. I did have opportunities to move desk as people came and went, but I liked where I was, and certainly there was no *requirement* for me to change.

  13. Ally McBeal*

    Oddly, after I landed my last job (not the one I have now), my manager remarked that I stood out in the interview process because I’d asked to see where I might be working if I got the job. I have absolutely no idea why that stood out, since they already knew I really wanted the role. It truly wouldn’t have mattered if they’d sat me in a cave, I was just curious… maybe the curiosity is what hooked them.

  14. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    I had to move offices once from one with giant windows to an interior one and I was also miserable. Then I discovered $15 nature tapestries on Amazon – they’re this thin handkerchief material so even though I got a huge one that was 8 feet by 8 feet, I was able to put them on the wall with just push pins. It made such a remarkable difference for me to look at a giant forest all day. Highly recommended.

    1. Artemesia*

      my go to was a Magrite poster of a window when I had a tiny closet of an office — it really did feel better. I was lucky to almost always have a nice view window — but there was that time.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        oh! Is it The Human Condition? That’s my favorite painting of all time.

        I’m taking the recommendation on the nature tapestry too – I mostly work from home but my cube has high walls and no natural light so it might help.

    2. Anonymous SLP*

      This sounds awesome! I am an itinerant school based speech-language pathologist and have two interior closet-type offices. I never see the sun. My students made a painting of a window/ exterior scene for one office— it’s really helpful! And much better than my first year (different school) where I was expected to do therapy in the bathroom. I don’t know what they would have done if I’d asked to see the workspace during that interview, but it’s definitely something I will ask in the future!

        1. Lisa Simpson*

          My friend is a school SLP and said this is super common. Since it’s not considered a “class”, it gets shoved in whatever nook the school has available. Closets, bathrooms, storerooms, roaming from empty classroom to empty classroom, vestibules, drained swimming pool decks, sheds, picnic areas or baseball dugouts in inappropriate weather to be outside, etc.

    3. amoeba*

      I have an office with large, beautiful windows. That the sun shines into directly all day because it’s south-facing. The blinds only help if they’re completely closed (because for some reason you cannot change the angle to vertical unless they’re all the way down). So as soon as it’s sunny, I sit in my dark office with the blinds closed and the light on all day…

      Two jobs ago, there were no proper blinds so my coworker blocked the whole, large window with old posters to keep out the sun- Good times.

  15. Aggretsuko*

    Hahahah, I have been in windowless offices almost my entire 20+ year career. We worked in a basement for years and only very few offices have windows now. Window space is NOT an option for employees here unless you are a high muckety-muck.

  16. Hawk*

    The only time where I can think of you not being able to see a space is if you need to have a specific security clearance to access the space that you would be getting with your position, but you would know that going into the job.
    (Context: married to someone who does a lot of hiring for the US Federal government in a space where security clearances are needed)

    1. Market Hargrave*

      You also know going in that you will be in a miserable windowless room with industrial beige walls.
      I don’t think anyone who works in closed areas would be writing in to ask for advice on seeing the space.

    2. Needs Coffee*


      Worked for a place that required a security clearance. Interviews were held in HR in a building that was only about 50 years old, but the interior had been renovated.

      During my time there, I worked in a variety of spaces from windowless basement to machine shop mezzanine to new building with real furniture.

      1. Aman*

        Interesting point on the office side of the world. As a Service Manager in a heavy equipment shop, I consider it a point against an interview candidate if they don’t ask to see the shop! Why would you not want to see where a significant part of your life is going to be spent?

    3. Student*

      It’s not 100% guaranteed, but there is a very high likelihood that there are offices (and even labs) very nearby that are nearly identical to the classified spaces, but outside the classified space. They buy all the office furniture in one go, and most buildings/complexes will have at least some unclassified portion, just for the sake of practicalities.

      We don’t get special fancy 007 spy movie spaces, people. We get the same cubes and desks and bad chairs you get everywhere else.

    4. Llama Llama*

      Yep. I can’t actually show people their desk if I interviewed them but I could give them a general idea and show them like spaces.

    5. Beth**

      I was going to say something similar. I work with confidential information and everyone in my organisation is required to have security clearance (including the catering staff).

      So even if we ever return to in-person interviews, I wouldn’t be able to show interviewees office areas. The rooms where we have external visitors (including job interviewees) are accessed without walking through office areas.

      I would be very happy to describe the office set up, but I wouldn’t be able to show it.

      1. allathian*

        Even a photo taken early in the morning or late in the evening when the office space’s empty and all the screens are dark would give employees some idea of the space.

  17. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    I think this is more common when the employer knows that something about their work conditions isn’t suitable for everyone. For example, if they use some very smelly chemical that some people don’t mind and some very much do, they might let people try it themselves to see if they could handle full work days in the production space. But for offices, I think a lot of people wouldn’t think that there could be something dealbreaker-level problematic about the work space. So this is a very good question and an important point!

  18. too many dogs*

    Always ask to see the workspace. The employer should frankly be prepared to show you this. Right out of college, I got a job at a bank. I was to be a “clerk” handling stocks and bonds. No tour of the workspace, no mention of where my desk was going to be. I was desperate for a job, the pay was excellent, the benefits were great, the commute was easy, so I took it. I lasted less than a month. I was locked in a vault with the stocks and bonds. I could see through the bars on the door, but could not get out except for 2 15 min. breaks, and a 30 minute lunch — whenever somebody remembered to come let me out. For the first and only time in my life I quit without notice, and decades later, I’m still ashamed of that. So, yes, ask about your work space.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Yeah that’s workspace was def an OSHA violation. Not being able to exit in case of fire unless someone lets you out is an absolute no.

      1. Sunny*

        Exactly! Never feel ashamed about protecting yourself, especially from a situation that could have become life or death. They should have been ashamed of their disregard for people and putting someone in potential danger like that.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        In case it’s not clear – you absolutely were right to walk out. You have no reason to be ashamed. Your employer was perfectly ok with risking your life – I have no doubt there were other perfectly awful things going on there.

        They didn’t deserve notice. Please stop beating yourself up over it.

    2. Anonymouse*

      You work there for less than a month before you are left alone in a vault with stocks and bond certificates.

      My mind immediately goes to heist.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Girl, no shame. You weren’t an employee, you were a prisoner! Obviously security in that kind of job is important, but LOCKING YOU IN? As Fluffy Fish says, that’s a huge no no–even actual prisons have release mechanisms in case of emergency.

  19. i drink too much coffee*

    I HATE my current work set up, and while I won’t say I wouldn’t have taken the job if I’d known… it would have been a factor lol.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah. One university I worked at the head of the university was in his 80s, and technologically clueless. Lots of animated fossils around there.

  20. Onelia*

    I would definitely ask to see the workspace. And if that isn’t possible for some reason, maybe ask questions that could help you determine what it would be like. Floor plans? Is the space open or not? “Collaborative,” etc.

    It’s a major deal breaker for me. There are two positions at my current workplace that I did not apply for because the office space was just so so awful.

  21. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    As some have pointed out, a lot can change over time. Given that, I suggest taking preventative steps for your own well being even if you end up in Alison’s mythically awesome office.

    Obviously, it is not the same at all, but I have found that when I have been in bad offices (interior of the garage level, for instance) having a SAD lamp helps a lot. I got one pretty cheap on Amazon. I even use it in my home office on cloudy days. I also find that a tiny fan (like on you can clip onto a monitor) moving the air makes a space feel more open.

    1. Ihmmy*

      12/10 do recommend a SAD lamp, there are affordable semi decent ones out there now. Also vitamin D supplements! They can make such a difference. I’m up in Canada in an area that’s fairly low light in winter so I ramp up my intake from September until topping out in January, then temper it back down as spring slowly creeps back

  22. ErinWV*

    For years I worked in a dark, window-less little office. Buzzing fluorescent lights. There was no ventilation, so it got no heating or cooling (or moving air at all really), and it shared a wall with a public restroom so I got wafting poo odors all day long.

    Last year we moved to a new space where I have a window, which lets in light and even opens. It makes a vast difference in my ability to withstand a workday. But also people are always telling me not to get too comfortable here, because we could be moved again at any time.

  23. The teapots are on fire*

    I interviewed for a library job years ago in Georgia and before opening the door to show me my potential future office, the library assistant delicately said, ”Now, I want you to know the color can be changed,” so when I saw the office (Pedro-Bismol pink with a hint o lavender), I felt free to say, “Well, I admit it’s not a color I would have chosen.” And in fact the staff hated it so much that it had already been painted greige by the time I started, which was fine.

  24. Like Feathers*

    Asking to see the space should give you a better chance of finding out if it’s dog-friendly, too- didn’t the poor letter writer with the extreme dog allergy get unpleasantly surprised that way?

  25. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Definitely be aware that nothing is permanent.
    one company, one department. 20 years, three workspaces, two buildings. My first space was great. Big, window, bonus partial fourth wall. My second, complete Dilbert layout and I was dead center. they both lasted five years. My most recent and longest tenured spot is exactly in between the two.
    You never know.

    1. allathian*

      16 years in the same organization, same office building. When I started, I got a one-person office on the 4th floor. I had that until I went on maternity leave. When I got back, we’d moved to the 2nd floor the building but I still had my own office, but with a larger window with a better view this time. Then my job was assigned to another team and I switched to another office on the 3rd floor. Then they renovated the premises and for the duration, we were moved into a huge cubicle farm in the basement with just a row of windows near the ceiling that let in light but that you couldn’t see out of (our collective agreement specifies that every employee must have access to daylight during working hours, although meeting spaces can be windowless). When the renovations were complete, we moved to the 3rd floor again, but this time my coworker and I shared an office. Unfortunately something had gone wrong in the reconstruction and lots of people got sick. It turned out that the interior walls were releasing dangerous amounts of formaldehyde into the air, so we moved back to the basement. After the renovation we got an office on the 4th floor and that’s where we’ve been for the last 10 years, so it was 6 moves in as many years. Now they’re planning another remodeling of the office space and who knows where I’ll be next. It does help that I WFH most of the time now.

  26. Nocturne*

    I kinda wish I’d done this with my first long-term contract – they put me and all other contractors in the basement. While the offices were nice and there was some attention given to ergonomy, not seeing light for sometimes days on end in the winter (because I’d arrive before sunup and leave after sundown) really did a number on me.

    There was no tour of the office for the position I took after that one, but it’s located in a public building and I actually went and looked in my free time. There were windows everywhere. Would have saved me time to just ask during the interview though!

  27. Observer*

    I don’t really agree with Allison. Sure, there are situations where it’s practical to actually see where you are going to be sitting, but there are a lot of situations where it’s not so practical. And there is always the issue that things can change, so you really don’t know what’s going to be with a particular workspace.

    It may be more useful to get a look at what the general space looks like, if possible, and to ask about your concerns. If you asked me about our IT, for instance, I would tell you what our general set up is (I think pretty good ergonomically speaking) and if you need anything special we can generally accommodate it. I’m not the operations person or office manager, but if I were involved in hiring, and you asked me about this stuff, I would give you the information as well. Our set up, for the most part, is pretty good. Yes, we have a lot of windowless areas, but we have good lighting. Having said that, I get that this might not be what you need. But my point is that we would be perfectly OK with answering any questions you have and addressing any potential issues.

    This is useful because it gives you information about the actual space. But it also gives you information about the attitude of the potential employer. I suspect that part of the problem at your old employer was that they were cavalier about employee comfort. I mean, sure, you’re there to work, but you should be in a reasonably comfortable space. Inadequate lighting is inexcusable. So, for that matter, is the rest of what you described. What else were they shorting you on? How did they react to any requests that you made? Or was it even conceivable that you could make any requests?

    Any employer that’s going to get huffy about you asking is waving a bit of a red flag.

    1. Observer*

      I should have put my first sentence differently- I don’t completely agree with Alison about asking to see the space. But I do *not* disagree about checking out the issue. Just that you may not necessarily see the actual office you will be sitting in.

      1. Observer*

        The federal government is not monolithic as an employer. A lot depends on the particular agency, and sometimes even the locale.

  28. Rachel*

    This isn’t an answer to this specific LW, more of a comment on the comments.

    Most buildings are not designed in such a way that every office is an exterior office. Most buildings are not designed in such a way that the basement is never utilized.

    I am not saying the LW has to take an interior office. I am saying that chances are good somebody will.

    1. Observer*

      I am not saying the LW has to take an interior office. I am saying that chances are good somebody will.

      True. The thing is, though, that a large part of the problem for most people is not just outdoor light vs not seeing outdoor light. But overall ergonomics and office comfort. Like, is there adequate lighting at all ? According to the LW, their first office was barely lit at all. Are the work-spaces appropriately set up? Again, according to the LW, the answer is definitively not.

      And is someone really does have an issue like SAD, they need to know up front what the situation is. Sure, it might limit their job choices, but if they can afford it, it’s definitely better than getting sick.

      1. Rachel*

        I think what I am picking up on in the comments is some indignation that the company would dare put people in an interior office.

        The office layout itself may have a lot of natural light or it may not. If it doesn’t, getting more natural light in the office could mean a huge construction project that the company can’t afford

        Not sure if I am expressing myself well, but sometimes I think this comments section spends money really easily.

        I do think most companies can move the needle on things like office furniture and ergonomics and allowing a SAD light. Those are all reasonable and doable for most places. Ensuring the physical structure allows everybody their ideal office might be a huge leap, and that doesn’t make the office monsters

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        One common practice is to have offices around the exterior walls and shared spaces – conference rooms, bathrooms, break room – in the interior. But then I haven’t had an actual office in over a decade, it’s all open plan everywhere, so “my private office isn’t as nice as I wanted” doesn’t get a ton of sympathy.

    2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      If I had to have an interior office (and fortunately I do not), I would need it to be near the ladies’ room. Last time I worked in an office I quit after two months, and one of the reasons was the long hike to fulfill calls of nature.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’ve worked in a few offices and oddly they’ve always been designed explicitly so that all offices are interior offices, with the logic being that if you get an office, you also don’t get a window to the outside. [The offices themselves may or may not have windows facing onto the broader workspace, depending on the office.] It was seen as a trade-off: if you get the privacy, you give up the light, and vice versa.

  29. Anne Shirley*

    I realize it’s a lot to look for in a limited amount of time, but it’s also good to determine how close you would be to meeting rooms or the break room. Or if it’s a high-traffic area. Or if you are near customer service reps but you are not one yourself. The desk and chair may be decent enough, but the area may be filled with distractions all day.

  30. Michelle Smith*

    Or you get promised a spot and then they take it away 6 months later to implement a new hotdesking system. Not that I’d know anything about that.

  31. Bookworm*

    I wish I had thought to ask for this for a recent job: I thought I could work remotely, but apparently the owner expected/wanted we work hybrid (this another story). My “workspace” was a dingy conference room space. TBF it was supposed to be a once a week sort of thing but in retrospect this should have been a warning sign of how little thought the owner put into this.

  32. Nea*

    I’d almost prefer hotdesking – once I was assigned a corner of a work bench right underneath a vent and twice I’ve been given tables in equipment closets and told to make the best of it.

      1. Nea*

        Work bench was one employer and both equipment closets were a different one.

        I’m now working for a different employer than both of those and I’m by a window, so there’s a happy ending!

  33. ICodeForFood*

    Back in the 1980 I accepted a job as a buyer, not realizing that I was going to be placed at a secretarial desk outside the manager’s office with all the other “girls.” I swore that I would never again accept a job without at least seeing how the department looked, and at every (non-work-from-home) job I’ve had since then, I have asked to see where the group sat. No one every objected to the request or thought it strange, though I suppose I’m lucky that none of my jobs since then ever did an intentional bait-and-switch of office space…

  34. The OG Sleepless*

    Seeing the physical setting is absolutely standard in my field (animal hospitals), but additionally I have learned the hard way that a nice looking workplace is much more important to me than I would have thought. I spent two years in a messy, cheaply built facility and it was stunning how much it dragged my mood down. Never again.

  35. pwl*

    In college, I was interviewing for a PT position, and I was so impressed with the beautiful conference room the interview was in. Giant windows, beautiful furniture, overlooking a park. And on the way out, I saw some nice desks in an airy, bright space.
    Fast forward to my first day, and imagine my shock when I was led to the opposite side of the building, where I would be working in a tiny, cramped, windowless, cluttered, dull space. When the other PT person was there, we were literally shoulder-to-shoulder. I ended up really disliking it, and I think my “office space” (closet) had a major impact on my experience there. Now, when I’m interviewing applicants, I always offer a tour – but I do sometimes forget! So I think it should be a totally normal thing to ask about the workspace.

  36. Betsy Bobbins*

    I’ve done this and it benefitted me a few ways: I’m a designer and color specialist by trade which makes good lighting especially important. I asked to see the desk where I would be working at and was shown a spacious cubicle with natural light that was pretty great. When I started all my new coworkers were a little miffed that they did not get moved there. I’m fairly certain my asking to see it was the reason I was able to keep it or I might have ended up somewhere else. Later, when our office moved buildings my boss was very careful about where she put me, once again I found myself in a good cubicle. I think having asked about my working environment prior to taking the job really cemented for her how important it was to me and she did not forget that.
    All of this happened because I simply said to HR, “My work environment is very important to me considering the amount time I’ll be spending there so I’ll need to see the space before I accept an offer”.

    Do it you wont’ regret it.

  37. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I once took a new job where my team was (between the interview and my first day) reassigned to a space at the top of a historic New England tower, up four flights of stairs, the last of which was more like a ladder. It was quaint and charming but we all fell down those stairs at one time or another. I don’t think it’s being used as a workspace any more.

    1. Roeslein*

      I’m not sure that’s comparable… I’ve worked in several offices (including my current one) in historical buildings that were 3rd floor + without elevator and honestly it is lovely and heaven compared to a windowless room!

  38. Captain Swan*

    At one previous job, we used to do a quick walk through of candidates as part of the interview so they could see the workspace. Of course that space was an open office in all bright white desks with silver/gray and frosted glass trims and a few red highlights. Plus huge windows (ceiling to almost the floor) on 3 sides.
    certain sections kept the overhead lights off. We felt it was important that the candidates knew this was the deal when they were considering the offer.

  39. Kristine*

    Or you could unionize, as well as vote for governments who will put regulations in place that ensure all workers will have adequate physical working environment. Like we have in other countries.

    1. Dinwar*

      Even then, knowing the environment you’ll be working in can be important. Not all work is office work, and even office work occasionally requires you to go into places that are loud/noisy/smelly/hot/cold/whatever. Tell me how to make a DPT soil sampling job into toxic material pleasant and I’ll make sure you make billions! You can institute protective measures (engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE), but if you’re the type of person who gets freaked out over sudden noises (no shame from me there), working in an area that has sudden noises may not be ideal even if you have adequate PPE.

    2. kc*

      I have a union. And live in a democrat run state, working for the state. Not everyone gets a desk with a window just because we have a union, we actually have it so almost no one gets a window and they are open for everyone to enjoy. I am in management (and still in a union!) and have a windowless office with poor heating and cooling.

    3. Observer*

      Or you could unionize, as well as vote for governments who will put regulations in place that ensure all workers will have adequate physical working environment.

      Even in your mythical world, that assumes that there is ONE type of workplace that works for everyone. And that’s just not true.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Yes, by all means, but that sort of change takes time, and something that would make everyone’s life better ten years from now, or improve the entire llama care industry by 2027, doesn’t help the OP make decisions about where to work this month or this year.

      This feels a bit like a variation on people dropping in to comment “the country I live in gives people more vacation time” or “we don’t have insurance companies deciding about our health care.” True, yes. But it’s not news to most people, and it’s not useful to anyone.

  40. Dinwar*

    The last few times we hired someone we made it a point to bring them to our jobsites. “This is what you’re going to be doing. This is where you’re going to be working.” If they were hesitant, it told us a lot about whether they’d work out for us or not. There are some aspects of our job that you’re either excited about or have no interest whatever in.

  41. K*

    I work as a teacher and have never not been shown my classroom before accepting a job. It doesn’t matter that much but can swing the needle if I’m trying to decide between two otherwise similar positions.

    1. just a random teacher*

      Huh. I don’t think I’ve ever been shown my potential future classroom(s) in an interview. Sometimes they’ll give you a tour of the building in general, but it seems like usually you only see the front office interviewing ’round here. Or maybe this is a primary/secondary thing (I’m secondary).

  42. Nothing Happening Here*

    I once turned down a job where I would be sitting in a large supply closet filled with file cabinets, no windows, just file cabinets, a desk, and me. And poor lighting.

  43. happyclam*

    I work in a government office, and before I accepted my current position (but after the job offer), I asked for a follow up (virtual…COVID times) meeting because I had a few additional questions. The hiring manager was very receptive to the meeting (great sign), and I asked for some details about office space, the parking situation, flexibility in hours/telework, relocation expenses, etc. I had given the hiring manager an idea in advance via email about the things I was hoping to learn more about so they could be prepared. The conversation was GREAT, and I was happy I asked for it. In hindsight, I think this was a reflection of how great my manager is, but I was also in a space where I was willing (and able) to walk away from the offer depending on the answers. Good luck!

  44. Madtown Maven*

    LW, people can be very different in how they react to their office spaces and setups. You are someone who is sensitive enough to make physical requirements one of your high priorities when looking for a new job. You’re worth it! In the meantime, please look into getting a full-spectrum light for your current work setup. I’ve been using HappyLights from Verilux for about 20 years now. They make an almost literal night-and-day difference to me. Best wishes!

    1. costume teapot*

      I want to second HappyLights! I actually requested one as an accommodation in my last job for my interior, windowless office. (It had previously been a closet. We affectionately called the “cloffice.”) It made a WORLD of difference for me that winter-and-a-half that I worked in that office!

  45. lilsheba*

    try working lined up at a table with tons of other people sometime, with no room to have anything personal and no sense of privacy whatsoever. I would take the windowless office any day over that. You can add your own lighting and decoration.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Open plan benching. BTDT. The noise on busy days got up to 90 dB on the regular. The quiet times were 65 dB. We had “lockers” for our stuff. My backback was my office, because the “locker” was just a locking file drawer in the bottom of a file cabinet.

      1. Quill*

        Ooof, bench desks are pretty grim. Last time I worked someplace with those we used to invent reasons to go into the lab or storage closet just so we could check our texts for a minute without feeling panopticon’d.

        The only reason it worked at all was that we were spending at least half our time in the lab anyway, otherwise it would have been nothing but elbowing your neighbor every time you moved your mouse.

  46. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    I once worked in a cube farm for a company that produces content for large corporations. Some photos of a regular old office were needed, so they photographed our own space on the weekend. The client rejected the photos as looking “downright soviet.”

    Can attest: working there was grim.
    Things can be older and worn but still cheery and pleasant.
    That space was not.

  47. dahope*

    When I started at my last organization, the role was described as a Volunteer Manager one with some support for fundraising and grant prospecting (and, of course, “other duties as assigned”). As soon as I was shown my desk, it dawned on me that a large part of my role was to be the “front desk person” and was expected to act as an admin assistant. They had changed the title and job description of the previous admin assistant, but not changed the internal expectations. Imagine my confusion when I was informed Marla hadn’t received a birthday card and I was asked to order more spoons for the staff lounge. Would have been a huge red flag had they told me the empty front desk was going to be my work space.

  48. Critical Rolls*

    Oof, I felt that. One of my first professional jobs I passed on trying for several promotions because they would have meant working in the fully enclosed HQ offices, and I can’t. You’ll get about two hours of work from me on a good day, and a steady decline into an Eeyore-puddle.

  49. TCO*

    I hired some folks through an all-remote interview process during covid when we knew that we’d be returning to the office pretty soon. I made a video tour of the office that I shared with them. I made sure to show not only their workspace, but to also show/discuss bathrooms (at the time we had no single-person restrooms), space for private needs like prayer, etc. It wasn’t the same as getting an in-person tour but it gave people a sense of the space.

  50. INTPLibrarian*

    Shortly after starting my current job, we moved locations. The old building was not great, and I really was working in a sort of closet, though it did have a small window. (larger than a closet, but it also served as a storage area, so people would come in and out looking for items.)

    The new location is near the old one, gorgeously refurbished, etc. all good. Except all office doors had a glass pane. All desks, unmovable, are set up like tables — open underneath. And facing the window. I wore pants until management were convinced to frost the windows.

    I know this isn’t 100% related; just showing you can’t be sure what to expect!

  51. Nightengale*

    You might learn all sorts of interesting things by asking to see the workspace.

    I was looking for my first job in my field as a doctor after completing training. I very much wanted to relocate to a “real city” so I would no longer need to drive for disability reasons. I defined a “real city” for my purposes as a place where buses ran nights and weekends. I answered an ad for a position at a suitably real city where I could see myself happy to live and was contacted by the hiring team.

    I had several phone interviews (back before this was really common) and then came into the large city for an in-person interview. I went from meeting room to office. I asked about briefly seeing the actual clinic space. They hemmed and hawed and temporized and eventually I got it out of them that they planned to put the new doctor either at site A, a 1+ hour drive from the city, or site B, a 1+ hour drive from the city in a different direction.

    I guess to them, “real city” and “hours drive from city at undetermined location” were equivalent but to me they certainly were not and I was quite thankful I had insisted on seeing the clinic to force them to tell me I would not be working in that clinic space. I assume my dismay showed sufficiently on my face because they never got back to me. . .

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Ah, the job ads that don’t understand the difference between “city” and “metro area”! No, your office out by the airport an hour out of town (Dulles area outside DC) is not actually in the city.

      1. Nightengale*

        I think “metro” would have been an overly generous interpretation of the two locations they were suggesting. . .

  52. Single as a pringle*

    I’m a dental hygienist so it is a mind boggling thing to me that seeing your office before accepting a job isn’t standard as it is in the dental world. ergonomics are everything. I recently went from having a window in my room to not having a window and it is indeed a BIG DEAl. I use a SAD light and I find leaving the office on meal breaks helpful.

  53. New Office*

    Very reasonable to ask if you are interviewing in the place you’ll be working. I had a job in which my office and the surrounding area had been affected by a hoarding problem. I would have still taken the job if I had seen it beforehand hand, but as Alison said, I would also have had a better idea of what I was dealing with right off the bat.

  54. Meghan*

    I work for a company that switched to hot dealing after COVID but we’re in the office less than one day a week, so it makes sense.

    Also though, I got this role in 2019 but didn’t live local to it. (It’s a very large corporation and even though I’m not a high level employee, they were used to hiring via video interviews already. I was loving to he area.) I made a comment during the interview when we were discussing the leadership/hierarchy etc. About how accessible my manager would be or something, and the manager said “Oh yeah we’re all available to each other like this!” And he picked the laptop up and turned it around so I could see the office space. (Tbf it’s not one for everyone. The walls are windows, so light access isn’t a problem at all, but it’s a semi-open office space. Everyone sits in rows of cubicles with half walls that you can see over if you’re tall.)

    But I’m just saying there are ways you can casually ask even on a remote call how the teams are set up, and good management won’t have a problem showing you.

  55. Zee*

    I had an interview a few years ago where they showed me around afterwards. There were no desks, just long tables with computers and little dividers in between (like some school/library computer labs). The workstations were basically the width of the computer screen – not enough room to place a notebook next to your keyboard. Basically shoulder-to-shoulder with your coworkers. I don’t think I did a very good job of hiding my face when I saw it. When I got home, I emailed the recruiter and withdrew my candidacy.

    After that experience, I started asking specifically about the workspace in interviews if I wasn’t able to see it in person. The majority of my life is going to be spent at work. Not gonna spend it sitting in what might actually be one of the circles of hell.

  56. OfficeTourButMaybeNotActualDesk*

    I always ask for a tour of the office space at the end of my first onsite interview at a company. In the many hundreds (thousands?) of interviews I’ve done only two companies said no.

    I would say than maybe 5% of the time a desk space had already been assigned to the position. Another 20-30% of the time they say “and you’ll probably be sitting somewhere around here”. Most of the rest of the time it’s been “not sure where you’d be sitting” or “we don’t have a desk for this position yet; we’re working on it.

    The walk through the office is very illuminating. You get a sense of the type of desks, typical noise levels, standard dress conventions, available common spaces and things like if there’s free snacks in the kitchen or likely to be a rush on the microwave at lunchtime, etc. I recommend it for everyone. But if your goal is to evaluate your exact workspace you may be out of luck. Also, this changes fairly frequently in my experience, probably averaging every six months or so on average across my career.

  57. Tommy Girl*

    This is a significant reason why I’m much happier working from home, and why I’m not likely to ever work in person again, even in a hybrid situation. Getting to work in a beautiful, light-filled office with lovely furniture and art, with no smells, and a fluffy cat is just heaven. I didn’t realize how much little things mattered to me, like not having my back to the door, or nice decor from this millennium. I had so many cramped, windowless cubicles with such ugly colors everywhere. And fluorescent lights! I have no idea how I survived.

    1. lilsheba*

      fluorescent lights are the worst invention ever, and need to be destroyed! I do not understand why every office insists on using them when everyone hates them!!! I definitely am glad to be working from home, where I can have it the way *I* like it.

      1. Quill*

        They buzz, it takes an act of god for maintenance to replace them if they are still putting out even one detectable lumen once a day, and did I mention they buzz? No thank you on fluorescent.

  58. Anonymous poster*

    My first job out of college was in an okay cubicle farm – and then we were bumped to a ‘temporary’ building that was built the year before I was born. I would often be the first into the building and be greeted by mating armadillos under the floor and once was met by a coral snake by the stairs.

    Honestly I didn’t ever care to look where I’d be working next because it would be better than that (and it was). That first job was honestly the best-past job I could ever have because it’s a great topic of conversation, but man those working conditions were terrible.

  59. The answer is (probably) 42*

    I feel for you OP, I had a job where I worked in a windowless office for about the first year and a half of my time there. My manager was also stuck in that office, and she fought hard for us and eventually got us moved to one with windows. But for those eighteen months my circadian rhythm was hell.

    The one thing that did actually help was getting a small bamboo plant to keep on my desk- it grows fine in low/artificial light and it’s pretty low maintenance which is good because I have a black thumb. There’s actual scientific research backing the idea that having a plant in your field of vision can help alleviate some of the issues caused by lack of natural light. It’s not a miracle, but it’s better than nothing. So if you’re stuck in your windowless office for the foreseeable future at your new job, maybe try that until you can move somewhere better?

  60. Roeslein*

    I have never encountered windowless offices in Europe but spent 3 months in one while on secondment in the US, and it was hell. I kept having migraines and was generally miserable. I would without a doubt turn down a job on that basis.

  61. Lainey L. L-C*

    Ugh. I had a not great experience with this. When I was at the interview, I asked about the workspace because I had come from open plan and recently had a too loud co-worker who practically screamed into his phone constantly so literally no one could hear anything else. Honestly, open plan is so disruptive. I had had enough. I was told they were getting ready to rearrange everyone again, so I would temporarily be in open-plan, but within a few months when the reorg happened, I would have my own office. Great. A month in, I was even shown where it was. Even better. And then…nothing. Six months in, they finally moved me somewhere different, a corner with half a wall and half a cubicle wall. Woo.

  62. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Ooh, I feel you OP. I ended up in a shared office at a previous job. We had huge windows, but my office-mate insisted on having the blinds closed because too much light gave him headaches. He also insisted on having only two of the like 25 fluorescent lights on. There were no light switches, it was all controlled by the building. It was pretty dim most of the time, but was AWFUL in the winter, since it got dark at like 4:15PM on that side of the building and I worked until 5:30. Which my colleague never got to experience because his workday ended at 3:30. I scrounged a lamp, but it was like working in a freaking cave.

  63. teensyslews*

    LW, for your current setup, I cannot recommend a sun lamp enough. Do your research to find one that’s bright enough and reviews well, but they’re a great commitment if you live in a place with short winter days. I have a small one mounted on my bathroom wall to help perk me up as I get ready and then a larger one I use while eating breakfast. I find they really do make the days less blah in December.

  64. WannabeAstronaut*

    Kind of a tangent but in the same vein, I wish companies disclosed who their health insurance carrier is up front. Some of us really care about that and it’s annoying to spend a not-insignificant amount of time on an application only to be told they don’t carry what you need.

  65. Mrs. McCarthy’s Award-Winning Strawberry Scones*

    I did this at my first professional job interview as a new college graduate. I was a little thrown because the interview was conducted by a panel of 10-12 people and took place in a conference room where they sat me at the head of the table. They went around with each of them asking me one question from a pre-printed list, which was the exact same list of questions I answered in the phone interview. (Later I discovered the 10-12 people were a random assortment of staff members in various unrelated roles, so I guess they had been pulled in just to fill seats?) During the interview I said something along the lines of “I’m sure afterward we’ll tour the space where I would be working.” They definitely weren’t expecting it, but the manager recovered from her double-take and graciously said they would be happy to show me around. This resulted in an awkward parade of 10+ people led by the manager and me, past a very confused receptionist into their locked workspace (they dealt with confidential financial information), winding through a big cubicle farm to an area in the far back corner, where we surprised my two future coworkers who obviously weren’t expecting a stranger to pop in with several random colleagues. They were both in calls, so we couldn’t even make pleasant small talk. At that point the panel was clearly waiting for my assessment, so I just eyeballed a generic vacant desk for 5-10 seconds and said “looks great, thank you.” We then did a reverse march all the way back out of the office. For a while I cringed at the memory of this, but as time went on I realized they were just an awkward group of people. Now I feel perfectly comfortable in an interview asking to see what my workspace would look like – it’s important!

  66. Rocky*

    My recent interview was on Teams, so before starting (this is my first week) I asked for a coffee with the manager, partly to suss out the actual office space. She offered me another Teams call LOL. It turns out that’s because she lives more than an hour out of town and rarely commutes in. The office is perfectly nice and light, but very very noisy and it’s those long shared bench desks. Unfortunately there’s no convention of muting one’s alerts, so if it’s not one’s neighbour on a Teams call, it’s the constant bing-bong of notifications. I’m very glad that we can wfh whenever we like.

  67. Porch Life*

    I’ve asked to see the space at the end of interviews when I feel like it’s gone well and I’m genuinely interested in the job. Knowing my own mental health, I will not work anyplace where there isn’t a window to the outdoors. Doesn’t have to be a great view but there has to be natural light and I have to be able to see out at eye level. I don’t work without a window, and it’s non-negotiable. Of course I don’t say this out loud. But there was once when it was a deciding factor – when I asked to see the workspace I was led to a cubicle in the back corner of a small room with 4 other cubicles, with a small window up high – like you might see in a basement or a prison cell. I realized there was no way I was giving up my private office with a big window for that arrangement – even if it was a big raise and got me away from a management team I couldn’t stand. Nope.

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