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COVID-19 and the Future of Virtual Internships

Written by Olivia Willis

The current environment of COVID-19 has proven to be a challenging yet interesting experiment for most employers. Shifting the workplace to an almost entirely online presence has created new standards and practices that may have seemed beyond belief just a few months ago. Through this process, though, companies are realizing that some facets of a virtual office could be incredibly useful when considering the future of the workplace. Universities and K-12 institutions that were forced to send their students home and conduct completely virtual classes are beginning to think similarly, too. 

So, what does this mean for internships? If your company or organization is one of the many that relies on interns each year, you may be wondering how these changing practices could affect you. Should your internship programs be completely virtual, or some sort of semi-virtual, semi-in-person experience? Should you even hire interns at all until the world has completely recovered? These questions need to be tailored to your individual circumstances and company, but the positive effects of virtual work could be just as impactful on your interns, as well. 

Interns will be more productive. One study from a California based company has seen a 47% increase in productivity in workers since the shift from an in-person to an online work environment. While the idea of leaving a college student to his or her own devices while on company time might sound scary, chances are your intern will follow this trend. Less time commuting, a decrease in the number of meetings, and fewer workplace distractions are some of the reasons that a USA Today study suggests productivity is on the rise. 

You can hire an intern from anywhere in the world. Ever dream of significantly increasing your talent pool? If you choose to pursue virtual internships going forward, you will be able to draw on talent from anywhere in the country, possibly anywhere in the world. Before the era of COVID-19, you might have felt constrained by the location of your business, or the types of schools nearby. Now you can take advantage of finding the perfect candidate from anywhere in your city, state, country, or even further without worrying about how they will make it to work every day. 

Minor inconveniences will not be as much of a concern. Interns don’t want to call in sick or take off because of a family emergency, but unfortunately, these things do happen. If your organization already utilizes some form of virtual work, but your interns normally work in-person, he or she can keep up with projects even during unforeseen circumstances. 

You may save money on resources. The same USA Today study explains how companies are beginning to see how much money they can save by not paying for large, shared office spaces or costly utilities.  While this might be something to explore for your entire company, you should consider the savings you might encounter when utilizing remote interns. Yes, you might be paying them, but the money you could save might outweigh their paychecks. 

In this age of ever-changing workplace models, it is essential to explore what implications they have on the future of internships. Understanding the benefits of virtual or semi-virtual internships should be a case-by-case, company-by-company process, but should be viewed as a viable and practical alternative to traditional internship archetypes. 

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