Starting my summer internship from the comfort of my childhood bedroom was never something that I expected. A remote internship is something that is certainly different than anything I’ve ever experienced before, yet I’m so grateful for this opportunity.
In March, Kuder implemented a work-from-home policy due to COVID-19. Given the current circumstances, many companies canceled their summer internship programs, leaving many college students with nothing to do. Lucky for me, Kuder is dedicated to helping students find a career pathway, and in my case, providing a way to follow that pathway. With this dedication in mind, Kuder made the decision to continue with their summer internship program remotely.
Now, with half of my internship under my belt, I’ve learned the importance of communication, flexibility, and so much more. In the coming weeks, I’m so excited to get to explore more of what a remote internship has to offer, but here are a few thoughts and reflections on what it’s been like for me so far.
1. It’s comfortable.
One of the worst things is starting a new job and feeling uncomfortable or even awkward in your new workspace. I didn’t have to experience that awkward transition period when I started my remote internship. While working from the comfort of my bedroom may be a little odd, I appreciate that it’s helped to eliminate any uncomfortable moments or culture shock. It’s pretty nice to be able to do the majority of my work from my bed, which is much better than sitting in a desk chair in a cubicle. Although the décor has changed and my brother has technically taken over the space, my bedroom is still more comfortable than an office.
2. It might be a little too comfortable.
While there is nothing better than feeling comfortable in your workspace, I’ve found that there is a fine line you have to be careful not to cross. For me, comfort can quickly bring distractions. In an office space, there is no way I would pull up a YouTube video or a TV show in the background, but at home, I find myself doing it every single day. HR, as well as my teammates, have stressed the importance of taking a break to help fight burnout, and I do that by turning on my TV or some music. Of course, I eventually find myself getting sucked in for a few minutes before I realize that I need to get back to being productive. I also find myself wandering around my house to bother my family for a few minutes before jumping back into work.
3. I'm always winning the name game.
I’ve never been good with names. I’m always afraid that I’ll get somebody’s name wrong, so I avoid using people’s names altogether until I’m 100% sure I know them. The beauty of a remote internship is that everybody’s name pops up below their face on a video call, so I don’t have to worry about getting names wrong. I never have to question who I’m talking to or what their name is. If I ever do go into the office someday, I’ll have a solid understanding of who’s who, which is an advantage that I’ve never had in any other internship before.
4. I'm missing out on human interaction.
It’s nice that I can always see people’s names in chats, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that I can’t interact with any of my coworkers in person. I don’t think that meeting people on a video call can replace meeting them in person. Something that also comes with not being able to see my coworkers in person is a feeling of isolation.
I know I can reach out to anyone at any time, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t see people face to face. In an office, I would be surrounded by people, and I would be engaging with them throughout the day, and experiencing one of the best things an intern can experience – “learning through osmosis.”
It’s hard to soak up any sort of information, or be a “sponge,” when I can’t simply listen to what’s happening in my surroundings all day as I work. Along with this comes a lack of mentorship that would come with a normal internship.
I have spent a lot more time figuring things out on my own and problem solving instead of going straight to a manager or coworker for answers. I also have to go the extra mile to make meaningful contributions to video chats and projects.
5. Work-from-home burnout happens.
Working from home has made me more readily available to coworkers at any time of day. For example, here’s something that happened to me recently: I was getting ready to clock out for the day when one of my coworkers sent me a message saying that she needed help with a time-sensitive project. I had to work a little bit later that day to help her work on the task, and I was happy to do so, but this situation never would have happened if I wasn’t working from home. If I had been working in the office, I would have already left for the day and been on my way home, and my coworker probably wouldn’t have reached out to me at that time.
Situations like this make it difficult to fight burnout. In order to make an attempt to avoid it, , I make sure to take little breaks throughout the day. During my breaks I do anything that gets my eyes away from a screen and lets my mind have a little time to be still. These breaks are really helpful, and without them I think I would end up being less productive and much more burnt out.
6. The boundaries of work and home are blurry.
It feels good to be able to leave the office and head home at the end of a long workday. During a remote internship, this means leaving my bedroom and heading downstairs to spend time with my family in the living room for a while before coming back to my bedroom to sleep for the night. I find it difficult to set up that boundary of where my workspace ends and my living space begins. I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to work where you sleep, but with a few people working from home at my house, my bedroom is really the only place I can work.
This internship hasn’t been like anything I’ve experienced before, but it’s something I’m glad I’m able to do. This is a story I can tell my kids someday, and maybe they’ll have a hard time understanding the impact that COVID-19 had on people “way back when.”
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or anyone else, but I do know that this internship could be an indication of what’s to come, and I’m grateful that I have time to adapt to what life is like in the virtual workplace before I go out into the real world.
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