How to manage remote interns

We have all learned to embrace the pros and cons of remote working.

Though there may be some negatives, there are a plethora of positives. Not simply the ability to avoid the dreaded commute and work from our front rooms, but also the ability to work with interns and employees from around the globe. Location is no longer something that influences our ability to hire new graduate interns.

If you’ve read our blog on ‘Remote Interviews’ your next step might be hiring an employee or intern to work remotely. Maybe you’ve found an intern whilst browsing some of our incredibly talented grads, but now have no idea about the next steps.

How do you train someone, without face-to-face contact?

At DigitalGrads we don’t want to just help ‘De-risk graduate employment’, but also impart some advice from our experiences working with interns remotely. Over the past couple of months, we have hired interns from the UK itself and further afield.

Continue reading for our experience and advice on ‘How to manage remote interns’…

What to look for when hiring a remote intern?

When on the lookout for that ‘perfect’ graduate intern, there are certain qualities to look out for. To some extent, every application you receive will be from an aspiring intern with some degree of willingness to learn.  But, unlike face-to-face internships where there is an element of ‘Onboarding’ and handholding, it takes a degree of self-motivation and the ability to work independently for an intern to succeed in a remote setting.

Qualities to look out for…

  • Are they confident? – a remote intern will need to make decisions independently.
  • Are they resourceful? – will they be able to find the answers to their questions without blowing up your email or ‘Slack’ channel?
  • Can they survive without ‘hand-holding’? – can they work independently? Are they self-motivated? Will they spend hours starring out of a window because you’ve not explicitly told them what to do?
  • Are they passionate about your company? – Ultimately, regardless of their CV and Cover Letter, if they are passionate about the company then they will succeed. Passion brings about an ability to work independently and proactively seek out new opportunities to learn more.

Unfortunately, a remote intern, will not get to experience an ‘insider view’ of the company. They won’t see your offices or be able to participate in a ‘post-work social gathering’. ‘Zoom’ does it’s best with the ability to screen share, but ultimately, the intern will be working alone. Will they be comfortable to do so?

The Work -Life balance

With this in mind, it is important to emphasize a ‘Work-Life Balance’.

For the next however many months, your intern might be working and living within the same four walls. With the inability to engage in informal office banter or ‘water cooler chat’, your intern may spend hours plugging away at projects. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, encourage them to take breaks. Rarely will we spend hours staring at a screen, without a coffee break or freedom to go and socialize with our colleagues, so allow for 5/10 minute breaks ever so often.

At DigitalGrads we host daily meeting where we talk through our intentions for the day. However, there is a degree of informality before we get into the nitty-gritty of work. Asking how their evening was, or what they’ve been up to outside of work, reminds them that we are all human beings and have lives outside of work.

Don’t micromanage…and make time for face-to-face communication…

At DigitalGrads we attempt to make communication a top priority. Every morning we will have a ‘Team Stand-Up’ where, every member of the team (CEO through to our remote interns) talk about what we yesterday, the plan for today, and any blockers we faced. Doing this every morning ensures that your interns are supported but not smothered and can talk through any questions or issues they might have via video call – the next best thing to face-to-face.

If you want to help introduce your new hires to the daily stand-up, our free Daily Stand-Up Meeting Worksheet will help!

Don’t micromanage, the hardest part about employing an intern it delegating them responsibility (we know it’s hard). Don’t hover over them, constant check-ins are draining not to mention a waste of your valuable time. Trust your intern to make the right choices, and make sure they know you or someone else is available for any questions they might have.

Give your intern projects

Remote interns do require slightly more planning on your part. Plan projects and tasks, you can have them get on with whilst you’re busy working on other things.

  • Can they write blogs and drive up organic traffic to your company?
  • Are they able to reach out to other companies on LinkedIn?
  • Could they help create content for social media?
  • …the list goes on….

It’s ultimately a balancing act. Give them the freedom to explore different angles, but ensure that they are staying on task. Don’t micromanage them, but maintain a degree of a two-way conversation.

Rather than giving them a deadline, ask them to decide when they can get the work done by. Continuously provide them with feedback and show them that you trust them to get work done in a timely manner.

In summary…

Remote interns are a luxury we’ve only recently begun to utilized.

Other than the obvious, remote interns don’t differ greatly from face-to-face interns. They are ultimately there to learn from you and gain an insight into your company, so give them the best opportunity to do so.

Make sure you have appropriate programs for your company. We advocate using:

  • Zoom – for our daily ‘Stand-Ups’
  • Slack – for interoffice communications
  • Google Docs – for collaborative projects.

In the same way as for a face-to-face intern, make sure you organise a time for feedback, validation, and appraisals. Though they might be a million miles away, they are an invaluable asset to your organisation, so remember to give them opportunities to grow.

For more advice or find your ‘perfect’ remote intern start hiring through DigitalGrads today.

About post author

As a recent graduate from the University of Reading. I am currently working with DigitalGrads as their content and marketing intern.
Posted in Managing Juniors