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How to host a remote internship

The sudden shift towards working from home as a result of lockdown has caused organisations to rapidly rethink their ways of working. Whilst this has undoubtedly seen some benefits (like minimising commutes), one of the downsides has been a hugely reduced number of opportunities for new graduates and aspiring creatives. Young people from under-represented communities have been disproportionately affected by recent events and more than ever, organisations need to find ways of engage and providing access to experiences and opportunities.

Managing a remote internship is not only viable, but can be hugely effective. We’ve put together seven best practices for managing a remote internship, supported by The Climate Group who have recently recruited two interns through Creative Access…

1. The recruitment process: Coronavirus has allowed for the rethinking of recruitment processes. The most notable shift in the hiring process is the interview stage, whereby currently all interviews are conducted online through video conferencing software. When it comes to running video interviews, experiment with different platforms. For more tips, check out our top tips for online interviews here.

The recruitment process was straightforward … Creative Access were really helpful in sifting the CVs before shortlisting interview candidates.”

Here’s what The Climate Group had to say about their recruitment process: “The recruitment process was straightforward. As HR, we issued some guidance on how to conduct interviews remotely (such as use of video calls instead of phone calls). Creative Access were really helpful in sifting the CVs before shortlisting interview candidates. We did have to review the Job Description of the one of the roles to take into consideration the working from home environment and a change in our events calendar.

2. Induction: Onboarding the successful candidate needs to be carefully planned, to ensure the new starter is well inducted with their line manager and team and that they start their internship with high morale and confidence. Here’s how The Climate Group onboarded their interns: “The Hiring Manager introduced (on video) the new interns to the whole organisation via our global staff meeting. As HR, we have arranged face to face inductions with the interns. We have also arranged for the interns a video call with each member of our management team as a way of introduction.”

3. Technology: Ensuring your intern is equipped with the right technology and software tools and that they have an effective space where they can work from at home is fundamental for remote work. They must have a reliable and secure infrastructure and have the relevant tools which allow for effective communication and collaboration with you and other members of your team:

  • Your intern will need access to a lap top or a PC and possibly a work phone. You might need to consider other modifications to the workplace such as a connectivity booster if their wi-fi connection is weak.
  • File hosting and editing documents collaboratively has been made possible through the use of online services such as Dropbox, Sharepoint and Google Drive.
  • Communicating with your intern is easy through various video conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet.
  • Setting and managing tasks between you and your intern can be facilitated through task boards such as Monday, ClickUp, Trello or Slack. 
  • In addition to the above, for interns whose responsibilities include utilising creative or industry specific software, whether that is the Abode packages, or Biblio for those working in publishing, ensure your intern has access to those as well.

There are many online options to pick ‘n’ mix from, so experiment with which suits you and your team.

4. Communication, communication, communication! While emails are the primary method of communication between you and your intern, you should incorporate other communication options for simpler, less formal and time-sensitive terms. However in order to use multiple avenues of communication effectively and without doubling up on messages, it is important to establish the ‘rules of engagement’ between you and your intern. For more urgent messages, you may decide to text or WhatsApp, and for daily check-ins you might want to use Microsoft Teams. Whichever way you decide, make sure this is consistent and accessible to the intern. 

Whichever way you choose, regular check-ins provide a forum for your intern to ask questions, catch up with the rest of the team, provide support and boost motivation during these unprecedented times.

5. Ensure you establish daily check-ins: Establish frequent check-ins with your intern, ideally on a daily basis. This could take place as a one-on-one call with them, or a joint call with the rest of the team. Whichever way you choose, regular check-ins provide a forum for your intern to ask questions, catch up with the rest of the team, provide support and boost motivation during these unprecedented times. Ensure that interns are a part of events and team meetings as often as possible to ensure they are kept in the loop and have an avenue to participate and share their ideas.

Here’s how The Climate Group have established a routine: “The line managers have several catch ups per week with their interns to support them. Interns also join any relevant team meetings to keep them up to date on what’s going at. We also send frequent check in messages on our Teams platform to say hello and ask if they need any assistance.”

6. Be a source of encouragement and support: We are currently living through a pandemic, and as of the past few weeks, a time of civil unrest, both of which have a significant impact on the wellbeing of interns from underrepresented backgrounds. Living through this while being isolated is very difficult, and support is important now more than ever. Ensure your intern has a place to express themselves when they feel stressed or anxious and make sure you proactively ask for feedback on how they’re doing. If they are struggling, make sure you listen carefully, show empathy and try to make adjustments where possible.  

7. Be social: Reinforcing a sense of belonging is imperative in maintaining confidence and morale. Continuing to interact socially, and not solely for the purposes of work, can allow interns to feel part of the team. One way to do this is to establish time to socialise in the first few minutes of a catch-up call. Ask your intern what they did in the evening after work, or if this is a Monday catch-up, ask them what they did over the weekend. 

Alongside this, don’t hesitate to also arrange calls which may exclusively be social. As you would arrange work lunches or drinks in person, try to arrange something similar with your intern and the wider team through a video call if possible. Efforts such as these would be greatly valued by your intern and in turn, they will feel much more comfortable to speak with you openly when it’s time to talk about work.

Challenges are inevitable, but while you’re learning to manage an internship remotely, your interns are also learning to adapt to the changes and demands of a post-Covid world

Challenges are inevitable, but while you’re learning to manage an internship remotely, your interns are also learning to adapt to the changes and demands of a post-Covid world, where remote working and tech savviness will be more normal and required than it was before. The most important thing is to ensure your intern enters into an accessible and welcoming space. With patience and empathy, your intern will undoubtedly thrive and you’ll be sure to reap the rewards too.