Summer 2020 is one that students will not forget. From having their plans uprooted in the age of COVID-19 and the pandemic shutting down many different opportunities for travel, in-person classes, internships, and even full-time jobs, this year is unlike any other. Luckier students who did not have their internships rescinded or canceled were given the opportunity to work from home, which was still also followed by difficulties adjusting. If you physically went to school for 12 or 13 years, before attending an in-person college, figuring out how to do absolutely everything online was likely a struggle. For me, personally, it was difficult to find a good place to work, as I am not yet a professional or have a home office. The problem that even fewer people talk about is how distracting the home environment can be. Sure, there’s often convenience with mitigating the need for travel time or a less-strict dress code, but students may live with families who don’t understand the need for professionalism, with issues of interruption occurring. Here are 5 tips that really helped me.
- Find a workplace with boundaries. If your space allows it, a door is a great way to claim your workplace. I didn’t even really have a desk or a good chair this summer (I used a decorative table from my hallway for my laptop and monitor as my family had just moved and were lacking furniture). Definitely be creative and while it may not be the most comfortable work station, there’s always room for improvement… later. While it might seem obvious, having a door is an important tool to make sure that you don’t get distracted by what’s happening around you, and that your coworkers and managers also don’t get distracted by what’s happening in your house. It also puts a barrier up between you and your family members who may want to come in and bother you. My door was shut between the hours of 8 AM-4:15 PM, for example, which signaled to my mother that I was working and that she should not come in.
- Look presentable. Even though nobody’s going to be scrutinizing your looks as much as if you were physically present in an office, a nicer shirt and a comfortable hairstyle are recommended. I am not a morning person, but waking up a few minutes before I had to log on gave me time to brush my teeth and my hair, and put on a shirt that I could handle people seeing the top of on Zoom. While I would wear light makeup if I were leaving the house, most days I got away with some under-eye concealer.
- Log out (with your computer and your mind). This summer was the first summer that my schedule was the same every single day (versus other internships and part-time jobs where it varied depending on the day) and this was a mentally exhausting experience. It is also, unfortunately, how the corporate world works. You need to feel ready and refreshed to take on the day, every workday at your designated work time. Aside from weekends and holidays, you can expect yourself to have the same exact schedule. The best way for me to handle that was to log off at the end of the day, even if I had some unfinished work (there’s always tomorrow!), and not think about work until the next morning. This prevented me from feeling too burnt out, although I still did feel that way as it was my first experience with a truly rigid work schedule. Coming from that to a new trimester at college, I feel like I appreciate the breaks I have between classes a lot more.
- Morning routine. It helps to be up around the same time every day, especially if work starts at the same time every day as well. For me, it was 10 minutes before logging on, to get myself ready for work and sometimes run downstairs for water or coffee. For others, it’s an hour and a half to get a workout in and go to a coffee shop before getting ready (morning people). However, even if your internship isn’t every day or is at random times, it’s still helpful to have a routine set to help you prepare for the day and do some excellent work.
- Make the best of virtual events. Zoom tries really hard, but it doesn’t compare to being in-person, seeing people in-person, and not having to worry about unmuting your microphone at the same time as someone else. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, it might be a new normal, and technology is going to continue to improve and hopefully get even better with time. That being said, there are pros and cons to being remote, and your stance on those do not determine whether your job or internship is, in fact, remote. So if you do have to work remotely, make sure to make it more normal by getting to know people and networking as well as you can. I know many companies will plan virtual events for fun, and I highly encourage you to attend those. Even though it may feel weird over Zoom, it’s a great way to get to know people and make the best of the situation while keeping everybody safe and healthy!