By Maisey McGinnis
Pre-pandemic, I always pictured what my first internship experience might look like: commuting to a fancy office building in downtown Los Angeles or Century City, sitting around a big conference room table at company staff meetings, and maybe even attending a lunch or two with local reporters, investors or clients. My vision never included working from the comfort of my apartment, sometimes even from my bed.
Instead of commuting during the morning rush hour, I get to sleep in a little longer. The big conference room idea now is me at my desk joining meetings via Zoom. And although I do sit in on meetings with reporters, investors and clients, it is always behind a phone or computer screen.
My experience working remotely will likely continue, at least for the time being. Interning from my bedroom during the last seven months has not come without its challenges, so I thought I would share a few lessons learned:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you need to clarify three or four times.
For me, the most nerve-wracking part about working remotely was being on my own without anyone at my side to guide or direct me. In my previous in-person jobs, I always had a boss or co-worker in the same room or close by that I could easily ask questions if I was confused or unsure of something. Working virtually eliminates that, so having clear communication becomes even more important. Asking questions – and lots of them – has been crucial in my understanding of what I need to do and how I need to do it. Virtual communication, whether that be phone calls, emails or texts, can often cloud meaning and intent, so making sure you fully understand what you are doing before you start is the key to avoiding unnecessary work.
2. Check your email often. More often than you think you will need to.
Working virtually takes away from the natural connection people have with each other in person. A co-worker can no longer come to your office or desk and ask if you got their email. Even as an intern, I receive and send what seems like hundreds of emails a day (a few dozen is more likely). With all the work activity, it is easy to glance over and forget to reply to an important email, check the spam folder or hit send on a draft. When email (aside from the occasional Zoom meeting or phone call) is the primary method of communication with co-workers and clients, I don’t think we can check it enough. Refreshing the inbox every 10 minutes or so seems to work well for me.
3. Try to take a lunch break away from the computer.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have invested in several pairs of blue light glasses. Whether they actually make a difference is still unclear (no pun intended), but the amount of daily screen time from remote classes, remote work and general phone usage was concerning enough for me to take action. One of the most important lessons I have learned throughout this experience is the importance of taking lunch – or a break – away from the computer and the blue light. This may include eating lunch on my balcony or taking my dog Crosby on a walk. Breaking away from the computer has been a huge part of maintaining my well-being while working and attending school remotely.
4. Don’t put off your work just because you can.
Since I am not in the office, I can work on various projects at my leisure unless they have specific deadlines. I can start at 8 a.m. on Monday and noon on Tuesday depending on what I need to accomplish for the day. This flexibility is great when running an errand or attending to an appointment. The flexibility, however, also can have a negative impact, especially when I put off updating a calendar or media list and realize it’s 7 p.m. Not having the office space to distinguish between work and home blurs the lines for knowing when to be working. Just because we can do our work at unconventional hours doesn’t always mean we should. Maintaining a work-life balance has been one of the harder lessons learned.
Despite my initial expectations, I have learned more than I could have ever anticipated and believe my experience at PondelWilkinson is allowing me to grow professionally in my public relations and investor relations career. Interning from my bedroom may not seem like the most glamorous experience, but I guarantee I have learned just as much, if not more than I would have in one of the fancy office buildings I originally pictured.
Maisey McGinnis is currently interning remotely at PondelWilkinson. She is a student at the University of Southern California studying communications, public relations and advertising. When she’s not working or studying, Maisey enjoys hiking, traveling, reading a good book, and taking her Maltese, Crosby, on walks at the park. After graduation, she hopes to put her new found skills to use in Los Angeles or New York.