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Undertaking a remote working internship

Within these unprecedented times, many organisations and workers will be finding ways to adapt to remote working. This type of work is also growing due to the suitability of office roles, technology available, pressure on business for office space and the desire of employees for flexible working. According to ACAS the number of people working from home is steadily increasing, with 4.2 million in 2014, who spend at least half their time using their home as their place of work. 

If you are wondering about taking part in a remote working internship, this guidance page can support you in considering this way of working, how you can make the most of your own resources, the internship itself, and working with your manager and team from a distance.

If you lack experience of working in an office, remember that many other workers will be in a similar situation of experiencing the challenges of learning to work virtually.  If it helps, think about how you have worked collaboratively in teams as part of your studies, research you have undertaken, the technology you have used to support this and how you managed your time and motivation to complete this work.  These are the skills and behaviours you will now be drawing upon to support you in working from home. 

This guide is based on the Internships Development Team’s experiences of running the Warwick Summer Internship Programme (WSI) over many years, University of Warwick guidelines on remote working and drawing on information from work-related advisory organisations including ACAS and CIPD.  

If you would like to discuss further or need additional support, please contact careers at warwick dot ac dot uk

Remote working

Remote working is not just about a physical distance, it is also about a distance in relationship. While employers must accept liability and responsibility as they would for any other employee, being a remote worker requires a different mind-set around how you stay connected, communicate and collaborate with individuals, teams and the rest of your organisation.

Vacancies uploaded to the University’s jobs portal, myAdvantage, are checked to ensure compliance with the Equality Act and National Minimum Wage legislation. We rely on employers to ensure that opportunities meet relevant legal requirements and good practice, including remote working opportunities, but there will be many employers who have never employed people remotely before; they may have expectations that worked in a face-to-face environment that don’t translate well to remote working. We advise you to read adverts carefully and note anything that you think needs clarifying.

For any advertised opportunity we would advise you to check the opportunity is genuine. Familiarise yourself with all the details when selecting opportunities and ensure you are complying with restrictions in your local country before applying.

  • Will this opportunity support the outcomes you are looking for around skills development, learning, networking, full-time or part-time?
    Refer to WELD course Unit 1.2 on “Do you know what you want to get out of the work experience?” which includes a skills audit and strength analysis.

  • Does remote working suit your preferences, with long periods on your own, the requirement to be self disciplined, motivated, and the ability to separate work and home life?

  • Do you have the equipment and resources to support such as a laptop/desktop (with associated access to Microsoft Office, internet, antivirus software), headphones etc., or are you reliant on the employer providing these?

  • Have you considered the space/room you will work from, whether you can work in relative comfort and safety, and how you will manage interruptions by other people, social media notifications etc.?

  • How you will communicate with your employer if you are working in a different time zone?
    Some working relationships work well “asynchronously” but others will require setting an alarm or going to bed late to stay in touch and meet appropriate deadlines.

    Please be aware that if you are looking to work for a UK based employer while being overseas, always check and request if they will allow you to carry on work from overseas, in order that the employer complies with the relevant regulations of the host country. Just because the employer is happy to permit this type of working, you should not assume the employer will know all the implications of this and you should take responsibility to understand the impact of this around areas including a work permit, tax implications etc.

  • Do you understand how you will be paid?
    This includes how it will be calculated, what mechanism will be used to put money in your account, and how often this will happen, and if working internationally, the currency and tax responsibilities involved.

  • Have you identified what you can bring to a role outside of direct experience?
    e.g. such as a fresh or international perspective, technical or research skills, specialist subject knowledge and a willingness to learn.

  • Have you considered the implications on your living situation?
    Be aware that in the UK it is the employee’s responsibility to check that no issues arise with their mortgage provider, landlord, local authority, revenue or their insurer when employees are homeworking.

If you are applying for a specific role and would like your CV and application looked at prior to sending, please contact a Job Search Assistant. If you are thinking of sending off a speculative application these advisers can also assist with cover letters as well as searching for opportunities using myAdvantage and other job boards.

Please also refer to the Action Apply Moodle course to help you with all stages of the application process.

If you haven’t taken part in a video interview, it would be a good idea to understand what is required and how you can prepare. Visit the Student Opportunity website for further information and to practice, using our video interview software.

You can also view our YouTube videos on various aspects of preparing for video interviews.

Agreements and expectations

  • Understand what support your employer will be providing as part of their liability and responsibility, as they would for any other employee
  • What arrangement/agreement/contract has been put in place?
  • Are you aware of any costs supported by the employer?
  • Are you aware of the expectations and standards of work for the project, so that you are providing what is expected in a commercial environment and not doing more than is required?

Protocols and policies

Be particularly aware of the protocols around remote working or homeworking policies including:

  • Expenses
  • Reporting sickness
  • Taking holiday
  • Expected working hours/availability

Understand how you will be accessing, storing and sharing documents and what you should do to maintain data security, compliance with GDPR and confidentiality.

Working hours

Are you aware of the working pattern and hours you will be working? Remote working can blur the boundaries between your work and home life – don't let your employer exploit this (accidentally or otherwise) due to your enthusiasm or a desire to be seen as “keen”.

Consider when you are most productive during the day.  It would be worth sharing this with your manager and agreeing how this works around ‘core’ working hours and how you can schedule work around this time if that’s possible.  

Ensure any times you will be taking as a lunch break are clear so you can walk away from your work without worrying how it will look if you are contacted and appear to be absent.

Supervision and staying connected

Do understand how will you be supervised – when will you be catching up with your manager, and how? Does this meet your needs for supervision and guidance?

Share any training needs and look to understand opportunities to further develop your commercial awareness, team working and networking with colleagues. Speak with your manager if you think a buddy would support you in your role.

Staying motivated

What will you do to help stay on track and motivated? Maybe a task list with 2-3 key tasks, put time in your calendar, share with your manager the areas you are working on.

Be clear (SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) on the outcomes looking to be achieved for the agreed project and your personal development.  Agree these with your manager.  For further information refer to WELD course Unit 1.2 on this area.  

Support

  • Engage with induction which may be online, virtual tour of office, accessing resources and documents.
  • This type of working may require more catch-ups and reviews with your manager so they are best able to support and supervise. See WELD Course Unit 2.7 on “Regular reviews to find out if you are on track”. Share with your manager any problems you are experiencing in accessing files, internet, using technology, with the project.
  • Find out who else you can speak with if your manager isn’t available.

Structuring your time

  • Agree a work plan with your manager and how this will be recorded, stored and shared to keep the project on track, ensure key milestones are met and any changes in the project are discussed.
  • Keep your work calendar and out of office up to date to inform and support colleagues.
  • Sometimes it may feel like you are not making progress. Acknowledge the tasks you have worked on, taken forward or achieved. Make a note of your achievements or outputs at the end of each week.
  • At the end of your working day think about what you are going to do to bring your work to an end.  This may involve leaving a working space, putting away your laptop and filing documents away, particularly if the space is shared and you need to account for data security, or if your work space is a living areas that needs to become “home” again outside of work hours.

Remember to capture your learning using a structured framework such as CARE. Refer to WELD Course Unit 2.3.

Wellbeing

Think about your own wellbeing – making time to chat with colleagues, taking fresh air, engaging with tasks that do not require time spent looking at your screen, taking breaks with drinks and healthy snacks, standing up and stretching regularly.  Remember support is available from Wellbeing Support Services.

Professionalism

Be aware of ‘office etiquette’; your employer's expectations of staff contact may be harder to ascertain virtually. Pay special attention to whether your colleagues interact more formally on different platforms, or with staff of differing levels of seniority. Clarify with your line manager if you are unsure.

You may want to consider matching what you’ve seen of your colleagues’ work dress code to get you into the right frame of mind for working, and in case you get an unexpected video call. At the very least, ensure that you are always dressed to at least the standard you would adopt to open your front door, to avoid embarrassment if you have to unexpectedly stand and move around during a call - don’t become another person’s work anecdote.

Engaging in social interaction with colleagues is really important, not just for wellbeing and team morale, but to forge the working relationships that you may need to perform your role  You may be joining coffee catch ups through video conferencing and WhatsApp, or virtual social events. Try to read the level of formality from others on the call rather than the communication format you are using – many platforms that have been used predominantly for social reasons are rapidly being adopted by business due to their useful functionality, which can be jarring if you use them in other contexts. For example, if there is a Chat function it might be seen as unprofessional to use emojis or less formal language. Bear in mind that chat logs are frequently downloaded to contribute to meeting notes, and on some platforms that will include any private messages exchanged by participants that were not visible in the meeting!

Wrapping up

  • Agree how you will hand over work/digital files/emails and remove them from your personal laptop (if applicable)
  • Undertake a final review with your manager regarding the internship project, reflect on your learning and skills developed
  • Take part in an exit interview so you can share your experiences of working remotely and so that your employer can learn about their company from an employee’s perspective – make sure any criticism is constructive and offered in the spirit of providing helpful recommendations for future internship practice. Don’t save complaints or irritations until an exit interview – it is as much your responsibility to raise these as they occur as it is your employer’s to address them.

Keeping in touch

  • Understand how you will keep in contact and connect on LinkedIn
  • Understand if there will be further project or work opportunities in the future

Recording your experiences

  • Is there the opportunity for you to present your project to your manager/team? If not, consider producing a brief report of what you’ve worked on and achieved and sharing this
  • Consolidate your learning – WELD Course Section 3: Using Work Experience for your Career Plan
  • Update your CV. There will be so much learning that you can take forward for a future internship, graduate role or as part of your development journey