What exactly is a virtual internship, and how can it benefit employers?

August 27, 2010 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

Sometimes referred to as “telecommuting” or “offsite work,” a virtual internship is when an intern works remotely… as in anywhere other than your office.

Students are attracted to virtual internships because they allow them to gain experience without commuting, committing 40 hours a week, or considering physical proximity of jobs. However, the advantages of this buzzed-about hiring trend are equally as alluring for employers:

  • Larger applicant pool. Hiring virtual interns allows you an almost endless choice of candidates. No longer are employers limited to only those interns who live nearby or—in the case of unpaid internships—to those who can afford to work for free.
  • Workers only when needed. For small businesses who wonder whether they have enough work to support a fulltime internship program, a virtual internship makes it easy to utilize interns on a per-project basis.

As long as you guarantee an intern a certain number of hours per week, month, or semester, you can assign projects to be completed remotely as they arise, without worrying about creating work when things slow down… and an eager intern is standing in front of you.

  • Space and equipment savings. Since virtual interns don’t work at your office, you don’t have to allocate additional workspace.

Furthermore, virtual interns are expected to have their own computer and Internet connection, basic office equipment, and standard supplies. So while it may seem miniscule to consider paperclip costs when assessing an internship arrangement, eliminating larger items—think furniture, paper, and printing expenses—can add up to significant savings.

  • Payroll pare down. Speaking of savings, in some cases, virtual internships can nearly eliminate the number of unproductive, paid hours of work.

Assuming your organization implements a solid system for tracking hours worked remotely, offsite work can actually maximize productivity. The reason is that, when an employee is onsite for an entire day, a certain percentage of time will often be spent socializing or doing other less-constructive activities to mentally recharge. Yet the timeclock ticks on.

On the other hand, remote workers are taught to bill their time in blocks and to log in and out when they take breaks or switch gears. Therefore, the result can be far fewer hours billed for the same amount of actual work.

  • Interruption reduction. If you have a small staff, hiring remote interns means you won’t have to overwhelm one employee with the task of training or supervising an intern 40 hours a week… or with an intern having unlimited access to assistance.

When interns are offsite, it is the supervisor’s choice when to respond to questions or requests for instruction. For instance, the staff member can address questions in a single email or phone call at their convenience, as opposed to having an intern pop into their office at will.

Wait… there’s more! Learn about two of the most important employer advantages: See Working with Busy School-Year Interns Part I: 7 Reasons to Consider the Virtual Internship for additional information on how telecommuting internships can help employers make the most of busy school-year interns.

Entry filed under: intern management, virtual internships.

Guest Post: How Can a Small Business Owner Create an Internship Program? Can you tell me more about the 8-hour internship and how it can help our company utilize interns?

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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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