How to manage international remote interns

How to manage international remote interns by Surface on Unsplash

As we go into the remote working future, learning how to manage international interns so they’re happy and productive is vital

Managing juniors is hard enough when they’re in the office. As we dare to imagine a post-Covid workplace, many of us will be choosing to permanently ditch the office, opening ourselves up to an international pool of talent. But learning how to manage international and remote interns is no easy task.

I caught up with our latest international remote intern the other day, Linda Raynard. Her Human Resources Internship has come to a close, but as we reflected on her time with us I realised that we’re quite good at this. We’ve been working with interns from across the world all year – so it’s no wonder our latest co-worker from across the Atlantic had a blast!

Let’s look into Linda’s thoughts and learn the basics of managing remote international interns.

1 – Working hours

“We have a five hour time difference between us…”

The first thing you need to consider when learning how to manage international remote interns is time. This is because:

  • You probably need to help your intern schedule their working hours.
  • Their working hours are probably going to be a juggling act – either working early hours or late into the night.
  • This means that they might come online just as you log off for the day. Being the only person online can be a very lonely experience, especially for a junior.
  • Your intern needs to be able to have a normal life while working with you, especially if they’re still in education. So keeping to a schedule is key for helping them retain normal habits.
  • There is probably going to have to be flexibility on both sides. You might have to move some team meetings and they might have to work earlier or later than they might like.

I would recommend finding times that work for everyone and sticking to them. For example, Linda worked UK time from 2 pm to 7 pm. This meant that the majority of her working time was when the rest of the team was online.

Speaking of time zones, I recommend keeping any emails and messaging to your intern outside their working hours to a minimum. Or at least encourage them to turn their Slack notifications off!

2 – Keep them connected

“My days always start with a catch up meeting with someone from the team…”

When you never get the chance to meet the people that you spend every day with, things can get lonely. Remote working can be very isolating, so please consider putting some thought into the way your team will be communicating.

We shifted one of our weekly morning stand-up meetings to the afternoon to help Linda feel like part of the team and made sure to invite her to our Friday evening socials. Even though we were all winding down and for her it was 11 am, she was still always present and socialising with us.

We also assigned one member of our team to speak with her every day, hand over work and answer any of her questions.

Our efforts seem to have worked!

3 – Give them work with meaning

“The work is actually really rewarding! When the graduates actually speak with me I really feel like my role is meaningful for them…”

For lots of us, we need to work on projects with real meaning. This gives us a sense of purpose, motivation and team spirit.

Obviously this is vital with remote working.

Some business owners fill up their intern’s time with boring admin tasks that no one wants to do. This is all well and good for the employer, but it lacks meaning.

It makes interns feel expendable. I think that real happiness in the workplace comes when you see yourself as integral and adding value.

This is often a subjective thing, but it’s worth thinking about.

4 – Micromanage v freedom

I’ve been challenged to build my independence, autonomy and creativity…”

Speaking of giving your intern work… how are you going to do that? Are you going to make them log every hour in a spreadsheet? Message them with a detailed list of their work for the day?

Honestly that sounds like a lot of effort.

I would recommend guiding your intern through their core tasks, the ones they will be doing every day. Then give them a big project to work on, or the time to come up with their own idea for a project.

Once they know what’s expected of them, your managing work is mostly done! All you have to do is check in and answer any questions.

This more relaxed model of work encourages your junior to build up their independence and autonomy. In the future, this means they’ll be better employees! So give them some trust, you’ve got bigger things to worry about anyway.

5 – Keep saying thank you

Even though my work is behind the scenes and online, it is nice to get that appreciation…”

And finally, the ultimate remedy to uninspired interns is just saying thank you!

It’s easy to get lost in the go-go-go of work. Before you know it, you’ve gone weeks without saying much to your intern and their time with you is almost up.

The quickest way to make them hate their job is to make them feel under-appreciated. This is something you could maybe overlook in the office – saying thank you often comes easy to us in person – but saying thanks online is a different story.

It’s worth scheduling in some time to write a thank you message or to say it in a meeting. Even if this is just an end of the week ‘thanks for all your hard work everyone’, it’s really powerful. Especially if you’re the boss.

If you’re looking to hire an international intern, we’ve got you covered. Simply sign up, advertise your role and watch the applications flood in!