Intern Takeover: Working Remotely in the Days of COVID-19
As our world makes a tough transition into the self-isolation period to avoid the spread of COVID-19, finding the right balance to be successful while working from home can challenge us in many ways. Working for Choice Media and Communications has taught us skills that greatly prepared us for this new normal our world is facing.
I’m Jenna Wheeler, one of the social media interns at Choice! I am a senior at the University of Georgia, double majoring in Advertising and Communication Studies. I am from Vidalia, GA and enjoy traveling, trying new Pinterest recipes, and cheering on the Dawgs!
I’m Savannah Miller, one of the social media interns at Choice! I recently graduated from the University of Arkansas, where I earned a degree in Broadcast Journalism. I enjoy traveling around the world to teach baton twirling and dance, spending time with my friends as much as possible, drinking lots of coffee and watching Disney + whenever I can!
I’m Brooke Houser and I serve Choice as a publicity intern! I am currently a senior at the University of Tennessee pursuing a degree in Communication Studies. I was born and raised in Knoxville, TN, so Rocky Top really is “Home Sweet Home” to me. If I’m not in class, you can probably find me in a coffee shop with a vanilla latte.
I’m Keeley Ringham, the business development intern at Choice! I am currently a senior at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia and am pursuing a BBA in Management. I love to go to different local coffee shops, paint, and travel!
I’m Sam Genzale and I serve Choice as a publicity intern! I am a junior at the University of Georgia where I am majoring in Public Relations, minoring in Communication Studies and obtaining certificates in New Media and Personal & Organizational Leadership. I love all things trendy, am eager to travel, can sit with a good book for hours, and am slightly obsessed with the Enneagram.
We are excited to share how our internships with Choice have taught us tips and tricks that allow us to be successful during this quarantine period.
When I got off the cruise ship at the end of my spring break, I turned on my wifi and was shocked. Classes were on hold, sport seasons were cancelled, and my Athens home was under a shelter-in-place order. Over the past couple of weeks, it seems as though the world has turned upside down. Schedules have been wrecked and the future looks uncertain for many. However, it is important to create something constant for yourself and your family to help you stay on track. My internship at Choice has prepared me for quarantine and social distancing more than I could have ever imagined. It is a remote routine that I have had since January. Wake up. Coffee. Breakfast. Get on my favorite couch. Log on.
Though my morning routine looks different with six family members at home, it is essentially the same. I find a location, get settled, and get to work! Working remotely is something you have to get used to, but here are a few things that help me to stay focused:
- Make a list of things you want to accomplish for the day. This helps me stay on task, know what my day will look like, and divy my time appropriately.
- Schedule breaks. Because I only work five hours a day, three days a week, my breaks are small. About 5-10 minutes per day. I may grab a snack or respond to a couple emails. This helps me stretch, refocus, and come back to my work refreshed.
- When you are around others, make sure they know you are working and ask them to respect your work times by minimally engaging or distracting you. Especially since coming back home, I make my family aware of my schedule. Letting them know what I’m doing means unessential questions can wait and noise is at a minimum…except maybe when my little brother’s matchbox cars have a 30-car pileup.
Using what I have learned about keeping a remote schedule has helped me transition into this world of social distancing well. I know the importance of having a schedule and how to create one when it does not seem normal. Creating order when there is so much chaos helps the transition back to normal a little more seamless. During this time I challenge you to make a schedule, find your new normal, and keep an open mind about making the best of a difficult situation.
2020 began as the year of opportunity, a chance to try new things and grow in unexpected ways. I began this semester with two different, yet similar jobs that I knew would allow me to make 2020 my best year yet. With a background working in the fast-paced news industry, I would be lying if I said taking on the challenge of a remote internship with the Choice team was an easy transition. It wasn’t. But little did I know, that when the world turned upside down just a few weeks ago, this internship would prepare me immensely to tackle the obstacles called quarantine and social distancing.
I find myself frequently asked exactly how a remote internship works and my answer is always around creating a remote routine and sticking to it! It’s all about consistency. Each day I wake up, get my grande skinny iced caramel macchiato and log on to see what tasks I need to accomplish by the end of the day. With the outside world looking a little different right now, these are the three takeaways I have learned from working at Choice that allow me to be successful each day:
- Communicate. Whether it’s checking in each morning before you get started on your work or hopping on a Zoom call with your fellow coworkers, communicating with others is a great way to start your day. Plus it allows you to get some human interaction – which we all need right now.
- Develop lists (they are your friend). Making a task list of what I want to get done each day motivates me to actually do it. There is just something about getting to put a check mark next to a task that allows me to feel accomplished each time I do.
- Utilize a planner. That’s what it’s there for. Scheduling out the day and writing it in the planner allows you to have that routine we all need in order to stay sane.
With these tips and many others, Choice has allowed me to adapt and feel successful even in these unprecedented times. Whether the world saw these changes coming or not, one thing that still remains the same in my life is that 2020 is the year of opportunity, the chance to try new things and grow in unexpected ways.
One of the things that first attracted me to the Choice publicity internship was the fact that I was able to be a part of such an incredible company despite not being physically with them. Little did I know when I accepted the position, that the remote experience I would be gaining with Choice would be preparing me for what was to come a few months later. Starting out, I didn’t realize the challenges that came from working at home. Roommates (or now parents) bursting into your room while you’re on a Zoom call, getting stir crazy staring at the same wall six hours a day, managing distractions like my phone or TV, having to go back and forth to get my computer charger and being able to keep working even when you’re supposed to be logged off.
Eventually I got settled into my Monday, Wednesday, Friday ChoiceTern, as I like to call it, routine. Much like Jenna, I’d start with comfy clothes, coffee, and my favorite couch. (These have definitely been a few of my favorite things about being able to work from home.) I know, however, during this time, a lot of people aren’t used to and are struggling to make their home their workspace. A few things I learned from working remotely for this internship include:
- Make your space aesthetically pleasing. I’ve found that if I’m in a messy room or one that I don’t enjoy the environment around me, I don’t do my best work. So, I always tidy up the area I plan to work in, make sure my plant babies are visible and open up the blinds for some fresh sunlight before logging on for the day.
- Know when to log off. This one is super hard for me, especially now when we’re all working from home, it may not seem like a super big deal to respond to an email or two after 5pm. Or, you may not mind working a bit over time to draft up a press release… whatever it may be for you. However, this keeps you ON while OFF the clock. When you’re off, be off, and be present.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. So many things get lost in translation when working online. Tones are perceived differently, you can’t see facial expressions, and you have no way to read the room. This is why communication is crucial. If you’re unclear: ask to set up a call, ask follow up questions, or send examples of your work to see if it’s looking up to par.
I’ve learned so much. And remote work is just a tip of the iceberg. It’s been a gift, but not without its challenges. However, embrace the freedom of working from home. Put your sweatpants on and relax. (don’t worry, no one will be able to tell!)
As a college senior, I knew that my spring semester would come with a lot of “lasts,” but I never thought they would happen in March. I was sitting in my International Human Resources Management class, when all of our phones went off, letting us know the school was closing down. My university has a late spring break, and we did not know if we were coming back after spring break or not. We were later told that we were out for the remainder of the school year. Life has changed so rapidly these last few weeks, and taken on a new look. I have had to create a new sense of normal throughout this, and the most important thing: structure.
Establishing routine and boundaries are so crucial during this time. I made sure that there were specific places within my house that I was doing certain things. My desk in my room was for schoolwork, my living room was for my internship, and my bedroom was for relaxing and watching Netflix. I set a schedule for myself and allowed myself to stick to that, creating a new sense of normal and a daily routine. I have created a few sets of guidelines that allowed me to be successful during this time.
- Ensure that your space is clean. In times of chaos, it is most often reflected within your personal space. That chair that you let clothes pile up on? It’s got to go. I cannot be productive in school, work or my internship if my space is cluttered. Clean your room, light a candle, and make your bed. It does wonders.
- Create boundaries. Do NOT do your school work, internship tasks or work in your bed. In your mind, your bed is a place to relax and wind down. If you mesh that and attempt to make it a place of productivity, it will never work, and you will allow the two to overlap, meaning you won’t sleep well or be productive. Create spaces that are dedicated for certain things, and set time limits for yourself. Know when to put down the work, shut the computer, go outside or allow yourself to watch a show or two. If you never stop, the days will blend and it is a lot easier to go stir crazy that way.
- Extend yourself grace. This is by far the hardest thing I have seen from everyone. This is a time of chaos, uncertainty, and confusion. Everyone is learning to create a new sense of normal for themselves, and establish new routines. You may be alone, or you may be isolated within your room. But you must give yourself time to grow within this time. There is so much negativity and chaos currently. Do not let yourself add to it by not allowing yourself time to adjust.
My internship at Choice has allowed me to keep a routine. It is something normal, something familiar and something that provides structure. I have a group of amazing women to lean on and they have constantly allowed a wonderful period of grace and understanding with each other. If there is anything I have learned during this and my internship, it is to be patient, have grace and show kindness to others. All of these allow you to grow personally, and plant seeds in others that allow them to cultivate success as well.
I was shocked to learn that my last time on the University of Georgia’s campus as a junior would be before our spring break. As someone who is in love with google calendar, almost obsesses over a to-do list and is the poster child of an enneagram 3, you can imagine that I’ve had a hard time wiping my calendar clear and not being able to follow through with many upcoming opportunities, plans and celebrations to finish out the semester. I’ve had to figure out how to balance my internship with Choice, my now-turned-virtual job at a local church in Athens, and a full course load of college classes all from home.
Through this internship, I have discovered how challenging it can be to communicate virtually, stay focused and make sure you’re still taking care of yourself. As I settled into what my weekly routine would look like, I have been able to learn what my working from home style is and when to give myself both discipline and grace. Thankfully, my remote internship has prepared me for what reality now looks like, and has taught me 3 main tips to tackle working from home successfully:
- Prioritize. Sometimes, getting everything done in one day is just not feasible. It’s beneficial to know what’s most important, or has an approaching deadline, by making a priority list in order of importance to complete that day. This keeps me motivated and sets reachable goals. It’s also been valuable to run this list by my supervisor to see if she agrees or would prefer me to move around some tasks.
- Take a screen break. When the line between “work” and “home” begin to blur and work revolves around a screen, it’s easy to find yourself getting off task. I’m guilty of using my break to catch up on Instagram, but using a 10-minute break to take my eyes off of a screen has worked wonders in my productivity. Go for a walk, make a cup of coffee, play with a puppy, water those plants. I would also highly suggest embracing the “Do Not Disturb” setting and investing in some blue light glasses!
- Communicate expectations with anyone that will be home with you. It’s so easy to get distracted by roommates, siblings, your noisy neighbors and their crying puppy (yes, true story) and it’s important to let your people know that even though you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you are available. Asking others to respect your space and time until you log off helps to be more successful and less distractible. Let your people know your hours and when you’re on a video call so that you can work efficiently and professionally.
From the day I heard from Choice’s Founder and CEO Heather Adams in one of my public relations classes, I instantly knew Choice was somewhere I wanted to learn from. I was intrigued by how close-knit everyone seemed, even though they were a virtual team. I have now had the privilege of getting to grow in both my hard skills and my soft skills with Choice’s guidance, and have been able to use what I have learned about working remotely to help me transition to today’s reality successfully. This internship has by no means been easy, it has stretched me and provided me with lessons I will never forget. It has truly been such a gift that I will be forever grateful for!