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Studies have found that once employees started working from home, stable or increased productivity levels were reported.

But what about remote interns? They may not have the same ties to your company and its culture as a regular employee and likely won’t have the same financial benefits.

How can you supervise them to ensure they stay engaged?

Remote stages can provide a lot of value to your company if managed correctly.

Here are some suggestions for supervising interns in a virtual setting.

Create an onboarding schedule

First impressions mean a lot. From your first contact, your tone can make your intern excited and ready to make an impact, or make them lose motivation from day one.

Before your intern starts, create a schedule for the first two or three weeks. You can include a detailed schedule for the first two days, which will help you find a work pace.

You must set expectations from the start.

During the first week, ask him to schedule meetings with you, your teammates, and colleagues who can connect you to online systems he will use at home.

Provide a list of people the intern should meet virtually. These conversations will help him feel part of the team and allow him to connect the dots between his work and the organization’s mission.

Attend the onboarding presentation and make sure your intern understands everything about your company’s work and culture, before they even begin.

Teach your intern to manage himself

Interns are new workers. They are usually still learning to structure their own time at work.

Give them guidance on how to structure their time so they know what a productive schedule looks like.

However, don’t just stop at a daily schedule, try to have one or two mandatory meetings during the week so that they present results or difficulties faced.

Let them feel what it’s like to do something right, or fail and then have to redo it. Trust them to make mistakes. The good ones will not take advantage of your confidence.

By trusting their interns, they gain ownership of the work they’ve done. They will come out of the internship experience with something to point to and say “I did it”.

The more structure you can provide, the easier it will be for you to supervise an intern working from home.

Check in

Supervising interns remotely is quite different from in-person supervision, and interns already require additional training and support compared to full-time employees.

You can provide a positive experience for remote interns by being available and providing a strong support network.

Consider both team and individual check-ins. One-on-one meetings give remote interns the opportunity to share their progress, voice any concerns, and build rapport.

The important thing here is that scans are scheduled regularly, giving them a sense of normalcy and predictability in uncertain times.

While formal check-ins must be scheduled in advance, you can also do them via chat or email daily.

Resist the urge to micromanage your remote interns. Instead, set clear goals for them each week and then check in regularly to track their progress.

Managing interns remotely means ceding some control, so communication is extremely important.

You must show that you trust them, but balance that trust with support and management. When checking in, let your interns know that you are available should they need guidance or assistance.

Keep focus

Most students seek internships because they want to gain practical work experience. When managing your remote interns, it’s important to keep this in mind.

To keep them on track, set:

  • Learning objectives: what do you expect the intern to learn from the activity?
  • Learning Tasks: How will the trainee accomplish each learning objective?

The best way to set achievable goals and priorities is to reduce ambiguity and stay focused.

  • Specific: Your objective is direct, detailed and meaningful.
  • Attainable: Your goal is realistic and achievable.
  • Relevant: Your objective aligns with your company’s mission.
  • Time-based: Your goal has a deadline.

Afterwards, check:

  • Did the intern reach the goal?
  • What are the reasons for having or not having reached the goal?
  • How can they improve and grow?

By setting SMART goals and checking them regularly, you’ll keep your interns busy and productive.

Providing feedback improves intern productivity

Feedback helps foster a stronger relationship between the supervisor and the intern, keeping them engaged by actively asking questions, learning new skills, and encouraging them to interact as a team member.

One of the best practices for supervising interns working from home is to set aside time and provide ongoing feedback, conducting a formal performance review.

Schedule weekly 30-45 minute meetings to discuss the progress of any project, then conclude by asking if there’s anything your intern needs.

A formal assessment has many benefits, such as discussing the trainee’s skills strengths and weaknesses, areas of growth and development, clarifying expectations, encouraging and supporting.

Other elements to consider during this assessment are the growth and timeliness of the work produced to date, the ability to take initiative and follow direction and work habits.

Include the opinions of other leaders and co-workers in the evaluation.

It is also valuable to ask about the trainee’s experiences and feelings in relation to the activities they have performed.

In short, feedback is the absolutely most critical practice that a supervisor needs to have with an intern, as it keeps a channel of communication open and the intern constantly learning what they can improve.

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