When Olivia Wieseler started her Washington, D.C. internship, she wasn't expecting to finish it from home. However, she learned a lot from the experience and shares some tips to help you prepare.
It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has redesigned our work life over the past couple of months. I went from a 35-minute commute to my internship site to a 20-second walk to my makeshift office desk. My coworkers turned from academic scholars and public relations professionals to my college freshman brother and two siblings in high school.
It’s a situation I did not expect to be in this semester, but I’ve actually learned a lot from this experience. It’s taught me about responsibility, communication, and, quite frankly, what working remotely is all about. I managed to overcome the obstacles, and I know you can too. Here are a few factors to consider as you prepare for a remote job or internship.
It is important to think about all the potential distractions you could face while working from home. Your bed, the TV, your favorite book, the kitchen—with all these just a few steps away, it can be hard to stay focused and on task throughout the day.
What I found to help me was to have my own space specifically for work and to only use that place for work. You don’t want to intern at the kitchen counter or on the couch because those spaces are traditionally meant for other things. Your couch is for relaxing; your bedroom is for sleeping; your kitchen is for eating. Don’t mix them. Physically compartmentalizing different aspects of your day also helps you to compartmentalize them in your mind and stay focused.
Of course, things around the house aren’t the only distraction…
I don’t know about you, but having three siblings, parents, and a cute small dog who roams the house often present a whole new level of distraction. To give you a taste — one of my brothers would be blasting classical music for his music appreciation homework, at the same time my other brother played The Office theme song on the keyboard. All the while, the ceiling sounded like it was about to cave in from my sister doing her workout upstairs.
To help block out the distractions of noisy siblings, I would often put on headphones with loud white noise or thunderstorm sounds. This gave me a natural noise to drown out the distractions, but also kept me from bopping my head to some real jams instead of working. As for the dog, I decided it was okay to take snuggle breaks from time to time.
Collaboration and Communication
My coworkers at home provide a much different experience than my co-workers back at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who offered me helpful feedback, collaborated with me on projects, and assigned me productive tasks. However, that didn’t mean I no longer had any opportunities to build professional relationships or get encouragement for professional development. It just meant I had to be a lot more intentional with my communication.
While I couldn’t pop my head into my supervisor’s office to ask a question or turn my chair around to discuss a project with a fellow intern, I did have the beautiful tools of technology at my aide. We would often use email for project assignments or questions. If something needed more explanation or multiple people were involved, we had the occasional Zoom meeting.
Despite its challenges, working remotely isn’t that bad. The commute is nice, there isn’t much of a dress code, and you can make your workstation as comfortable as you’d like (I work with a blanket over my lap every day).
I just hope that next time you are thinking about working remotely, it’s not because a pandemic forced you to.
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