How to Work from Home During Your Remote Internship

Dana Guterman
Updated: May 7, 2020


An internship is all about getting hands-on experience at a new job. You’re there to help out, but you’re also there to learn from the experts. In the time of COVID-19, however, “hands-on” is off the table. So, how do you stay motivated and get the most from your virtual internship experience? Here are our top tips for a productive, rewarding work-from-home experience.


1. Set a schedule

One thing that makes an internship so different from school is that you work a 9–5 day. Recreating that schedule at home is one of the best ways to stay on track and get a feel for the working world. Before your internship starts, be sure to ask your supervisor about typical office hours. Then, wake up with enough time to get dressed, have breakfast, and get ready for the day. Sign online promptly each morning, and sign off at the appointed time each evening.

Another part of sticking to a schedule is knowing how to prioritize tasks. Every morning, go through your to-do list (whether it’s written or online) and decide what you need to get done that day.

Cross things off throughout the day. At the end of the day, update your to-do list so you can hit the ground running the next day. Regularly evaluating your tasks will ensure you stay on track and don’t fall behind on your work—even without a supervisor to tap you on the shoulder every day.

In addition to getting more work done, a regular schedule will help you achieve a work-life balance. When everyone’s working from a home office, you’re never away from work—so it’s vital to set healthy boundaries. If you’re online and working from 7–4 each day, with a one-hour lunch break, try to avoid responding to emails sent after 4:00 pm. By protecting your personal time, you’ll be better able to focus during working hours.

Lastly, let any family members or roommates know your schedule—and emphasize that you’re working even if you’re at home. If they need to interrupt you, tell them how to do so. Maybe they should text, or maybe they can knock on the door.

2. Prepare your space.

If you’re lucky enough to have your own space with a door that can close, that’s awesome! If not, you should still create a distinct workspace where you go each day for your internship. As we already discussed, even though you’re at home all day, you want to differentiate your home life and work life. Don’t take personal calls or play a quick round of Animal Crossing in your home office. Likewise, don’t take your laptop and snuggle up in bed to work.

Your at-home office should:

  • Be as quiet as possible, so that you don’t get interrupted throughout the day. If you don’t have a door, choose a private area of the house and wear noise-canceling headphones.
  • Have a strong internet signal.
  • Be set against a neutral background (don’t let your colleagues see your collection of action figures, no matter how cool they look!).
  • Have natural light to allow you to stay alert and motivated.
  • Include a comfortable chair (preferable adjustable), pens, notebooks, healthy snacks, and personal decorations to boost your mood.

At the end of the day, say goodbye and close your computer. Don’t sit back down at your desk until tomorrow morning—you’ve earned a relaxing evening!

3. Dress the part.

Even if you don’t have video calls all day long (and you probably will), dressing in comfortable, work-appropriate clothes will let you feel like you’re going into the office for the day. There’s no need to wear a suit and tie for a Zoom check-in, but you should brush your hair and vary the shirts you wear each day. At the end of the day, put on your sweats or PJs. It will help your brain understand that, even though you’re still at home, the workday is over.

4. Check in frequently.

In an office, you’d just pop into a colleague’s cubicle if you needed a project update. When you’re working from home, you don’t have that option, so it’s easy to feel disconnected or confused. That makes regular communication even more important, and the best way to do that is through frequent check-ins.

Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor to ensure you’re on track and working on the right projects. If you’re unsure about your work, send a quick email asking if you can hop on a call.

If you need another set of eyes on a document before it goes to your supervisor, ping your coworkers; they’ll usually be happy to help. By checking in regularly, you’ll catch mistakes before they become a problem.

As long as you’re not interrupting someone every hour, don’t worry too much about over-communicating. These are extenuating circumstances, and communication is key to work success and mental health.

5. Keep your calendar up to date.

People can’t check to see if you’re at your desk when you work from home. That makes it really important to keep your calendar updated and share it with everyone. That way, your colleagues will know when you’re unavailable. Here’s what to schedule:

  • First, set your calendar to reflect your in-office hours. If your company’s okay with flexible hours, choose whatever works for you, whether it’s 6–3 or 10–
  • Next, schedule any meetings and appointments.
  • Add in regular breaks, including lunch and time to get up and stretch or take a walk.
  • Finally, block off any time when you simply don’t want to be interrupted. If you have a big project and need to focus, it’s okay to block off your calendar and set your Slack account to “do not disturb.”

For the first few days or weeks, you might need to gently remind people to check your calendar. Soon enough, they’ll get the hang of it, and it will save you a lot of time and frustration.

6. Pick up the phone.

Have you ever sent out an email with approximately 27 exclamation points because you didn’t want the recipient to think you were mad at them? Us, too! Communicating over text, chats, or email can be hard. People can’t hear your voice, so they can’t read your tone, and miscommunication is common. For any sensitive situations, or any messages that go back and forth repeatedly without a resolution, just pick up the phone or hop on a quick video call. You’ll save a lot of time and stress.

While the person can always ignore the call and get back to you later, you can also send them a quick note to schedule a call. Just write, “Hey, can I give you a quick call?” That way, if they’re not in the mood, you’ll know in advance.

7. Foster a community.

It’s easy to feel isolated with COD-19; you’re not on campus, and you can’t go grab a coffee with friends or coworkers. That’s why it’s extra important to create a sense of community and socialize with your fellow remote interns and colleagues.

In addition to collaborating on work projects, you can schedule virtual hang-outs to get to know each other better. Put a weekly coffee date on the calendar and do a Zoom session in which you’re not allowed to talk about work. Start a friendly texting chain. Do a recipe exchange. Virtual friendships can still help you feel a tangible connection.

8. Get away from your desk.

Just as with an office job, it’s important to take breaks, get outside, and do non-work tasks to keep yourself motivated. Start the day by walking your dog. Stand up and stretch every hour if you’re sitting all day. Eat lunch in the kitchen or outside. Take a power nap if you’re tired.

A change of scenery, especially now, is important. Part of being a great remote worker is taking care of yourself. Which brings us to the final tip …

9. Listen to yourself.

Everyone has their own ways of working most productively. If you get less productive after 2:00 pm, try to work earlier hours and do the toughest tasks in the morning. If you can only focus for 30 minutes at a time, take lots of little breaks instead of one long one. Don’t feel pressured to check your email every 10 minutes; find a cadence that works for you. As long as you can get your work done, it’s okay.

One of the great things about working remotely is that you can be a bit more flexible. In best-case scenarios, that makes remote workers even more productive. They have the luxury of setting their own schedules.


Sometime in the future (and hopefully the near future), we’ll be back in classrooms, restaurants, offices, and theaters. Until then, use the opportunity to learn new skills and grow your career. And, above all else, take care of yourself.