7 Tips for Managing Remote Internships Successfully

In 2020, managing remote internships became a way of life for many companies. Programs that expected to bring in hundreds, or even thousands of new interns like they had in the past, had to make drastic changes to their programs without much notice. 

Learning from 2020, now organizations prep early for a successful intern season. Like most positions, virtual intern programs are more difficult to manage than in-person. We’ve put together 7 tips for managing your remote (or hybrid) internships successfully this year. Here they are:

1. Consider long-term goals

For some, it’s important to have interns working in the same location they would actually be based in, if they were to receive a “return offer” (ie you want to hire them after they graduate) even if they won’t be working in the office itself.

2. Plan ahead

If you’re bringing interns onsite, or relocating them anywhere for the internship, be prepared to provide temporary housing. Some states, such as Illinois, still have quarantine requirements that your interns will need to adhere to. Testing and/or vaccination requirements may also apply that you may choose to reimburse your interns for. Remember, as the COVID-19 situation changes, protocols and requirements may change too. Having a backup plan in place (for temporary housing or remote work) is always a good idea.

3. Adjust corporate housing criteria

If you’re providing corporate housing for your interns, make sure it’s set up for remote work. While proper office setups with desks and high speed internet likely weren’t a priority in the past, they certainly are now. Make sure your interns are comfortable and set up for success, no matter where they’ll physically be working.

4. Establish guidelines for compensation

Whether in-person or remote, your interns will most likely incur expenses to work for you, such as housing in a new location, or setting up high-speed wifi to work from home. Will you provide a stipend ahead of time? A monthly stipend as part of their paycheck? Or direct expense reimbursement? Keep in mind that many interns don’t have the financial resources to pay for their housing or other expenses out of pocket. PRO TIP: Provide, at the least, a stipend ahead of time so that the interns can be set up and ready to go on their first day.

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5. Decide on the amount(s)

This can be one of the hardest decisions to make, especially with remote internships. Here are some potential solutions: A stipend or allowance based on education level, geographic location, or position A standardized amount - this is common in fully remote situations A hybrid solution - for example, interns required to be in-office receive housing benefits, those working remotely don’t. Some companies offer different amounts by location for in-person internships, but remote intern stipends are a standardized amount. On an intern-by-intern basis - if they’re living with their parents no stipend is given, but if they have expenses and need a stipend it will be provided. The ideal setup will differ depending on your organization and your intern’s needs.

6. Consider the Tax Implications

If you’re providing stipends or other benefits, how are you going to handle the taxes? Even for interns, any compensation is taxable - even housing reimbursement. This means that the $1500 monthly housing stipend you provide may actually only net them $1200 to pay their rent, utilities, etc. Many companies provide tax gross-ups to offset this financial burden. Don’t forget to budget for this as part of your internship program.

7. Adopt an IPM (Intern Program Management) Strategy

Decide whether you'll manage the program in-house, or use a relocation partner to help secure intern housing and disburse stipends or housing allowances. Managing internships remotely is hard enough on its own, without the added challenge of housing and stipends. A relocation/intern management partner can reduce that burden by taking care of housing needs and stipend disbursement, along with fielding ongoing intern questions about their move - freeing you to focus on managing the internship itself.

Although the 2021 intern season looks a lot different than a few years ago, you can still rock a successful internship program in a remote environment, and reap the many benefits enjoyed by both employers and interns this year. And if you'd like a custom review of your internship program, or simply a consultation on best practices, please feel free to reach out to us any time!

Human Resources Today