Ten ways to make the most of an online internship from home

    Article by Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Posted: October 1, 2020

    While online internships may be the best way to gain work experience right now, working from home can take some getting used to. 

    From getting to know the organisation better, to setting up a comfortable work-from-home space, there are some excellent ways for you to make sure you excel at your online internship from home. 

    Get ready, get set, go with these top ten tips for acing internship programs online. 

    Why gaining online work experience can be tricky

    So you thought it’d be easier doing an online internship from home? 

    There’s less travel, it’s not as much of a rush to get your “work face” on, and frankly, you don’t look forward to the office small-talk anyway. 

    But, while it’s true that internships from home come with lots of benefits, they’ve also made gaining online work experience trickier. How?

    Well, snapping into work-mode, getting to know who you’re working with, and keeping track of time can be much harder to do when you’re not in an office environment. And getting this right is important to ensure that you gain all the benefits of an online internship. 

    Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten things you can do to hit the ground running on any online internship program. Keep reading to find out what they are.

    Ten top tips for an online internship from home

    1) Learn about your employer before you start

    There’s nothing like your first day of work to make you feel like a fish in a fish bowl! 

    And, on an online internship from home, it can take even longer for you to feel like you’re fitting in. 

    But, by finding out more about the organisation beforehand, you can begin your online work experience with a bit more confidence. 

    And this will go a long way in helping you to make a good impression, and taking the edge off your first-day jitters. 

    Do a sweep through the organisation’s website and try to find out more about the team you’ll be working with on your online internship. Keep notes that will help you to remember names and job descriptions once you get started. 

    You can even reach out to employees you happen to know and get some inside information. 

    2) Avoid distractions


    Get the most out of online internship opportunities by being focussed on what you’re doing without any unnecessary distractions. 

    These are some things that could easily break your focus while you work towards gaining online work experience:

    • bright lights
    • your cell phone
    • food – especially the snacky kind
    • gaming equipment
    • TVs
    • busy artwork.

    We could add lots more to this list. But, what really matters is that you gain an understanding of what affects your workflow. 

    Once you’ve figured that out, you can pinpoint the perfect spot for your office space, and find ways to keep your online internship work area a distraction-free zone.

    3) Set up a comfortable work-from-home space

    After ticking off the first two checkpoints, you can start setting up your workspace for your online internship from home.

    This includes ensuring that you have a comfortable seat and easy access to a powerpoint. But don’t just stop there. 

    You see, since internships from home can make it harder to snap into work-mode, livening up your workspace may help to get you motivated on an online internship.



    Google Feng-Shui advice for office spaces, or simply pay attention to what perks you up, and then find ways to bring that into your workspace.

    Set the mood for a productive day at work. Place a plant on your desk. Prop your feet up on a footstool and turn on your humidifier.

    Further reading: How indoor houseplants can boost your health and well-being during your time at home 

    4) Communicate with your supervisor

    It’s important not to isolate yourself while you work from home. And let’s be honest, online internships make “alone time” even easier to come by.

    Your supervisor would be your first port of call when it comes to preventing this from happening.

    A supervisor is someone who’ll be involved in your day-to-day activities for the duration of your online internship program. So, you should build a good relationship with them. 

    They should also provide you with training and an open channel of communication. This will make it easy for you to work effectively and stay in touch during your online internship from home. 



    Pay attention during orientation, take notes and clarify anything you aren’t sure about early on. This will prevent any major misunderstandings and help you find your online-internship groove. 

    And when you run into speed bumps – and you will – reach out to your supervisor for instructions, advice, or even some constructive criticism on a task that didn’t quite go as you planned. 

    5) Reach out

    Besides your supervisor, you should reach out to others too. Why not reach out to colleagues for advice on how to go about a task?

    You could even try to complete the task yourself and get a colleague to review it. This way, you’ll get a valuable second opinion and break the proverbial ice!

    Besides focusing on work-related topics, try to connect with your colleagues on a personal level. This will go a long way in making you feel like part of the team. 

    6) Challenge yourself

    An internship program online is the perfect platform for you to try your hand at something new, without all the pressure that comes with being a full-time employee.

    So, take every chance to push your professional development and gain skills that’ll up your resume. 

    Read more about how an internship can help with your professional development in this article.

    7) Stick to a schedule


    Once your responsibilities have become clearer, you can make a weekly schedule that factors in recurring-task due dates and meetings. 

    Add alerts on your phone so that you stay on track no matter how busy your day gets.

    But, also remember to schedule in a teatime and lunch break. This is one way of ensuring that you don’t eat into the time you need to clear your mind and recharge during the day. 

    8) Set boundaries

    And, in the same way, that time for TLC can be neglected when you do an online internship from home, you can sometimes take on too much work without even noticing it!

    Yes, taking on extra tasks every once in a while can be a show of good faith. 

    But, regularly working after hours, or having too much to do in a day, can make for a burdensome work experience online. 

    Remember that no reasonable employer would expect you to take on tons of work every day.

    Speak to your supervisor, or someone in the human resources department, if any part of your online internship from home becomes too much. 

    9) Take every opportunity to join virtual meetups


    What better way to get to know your colleagues than by meeting them face to face – well, virtually anyway?

    And there’s one big benefit of online work experience when it comes to socialising during lockdown. What is it? 

    Well, any organisation offering internship opportunities online will probably have an effective virtual-meeting platform – because staying connected is key to upping morale.

    Add to your work-from-home experience with virtual meetups to keep your online internship exciting.

    Whether it’s for formal meetings or online happy-hour events, take every opportunity you can to make connections. 

    This is a great way to get to know more about people’s personalities, work-styles and even the ways of the organisation – which can be difficult if you’re only connecting via email.

    And yes, you have to turn on your camera and show your face to gain all the benefits!

    10) Dress like you would for work


    If you ever find yourself in a work-from-home slump, the solution could be just a belt buckle away.

    Maybe you’ve slipped into wearing pajamas while you work? Or, you’re just sick of wearing a tie and shirt while peering out of your bedroom – I mean office – window? 

    Well, dressing up is a great way to lift your mood, and you don’t need tons of compliments for it to have the desired effect – although they wouldn’t hurt of course!

    Swap your sweats for some tailored slacks and join in the fun by dressing up for any themed office meetings. 

    You’ll be sure to get those endorphins surging and make some amazing memories on your online internship from home. 

    In the end, don’t forget that online internship opportunities are as much about learning as they are about getting things right. 

    Further reading: How to bridge the work experience gap with a distance internship

    Be kind to yourself, and if you ever feel like you’re stuck in a cyber web, re-visit this list to remind yourself of ways to make your work experience online even smoother.

    Have a look at GVI’s online internships from home to ensure that you start out on one of the best internship programs, and get motivated to make an impact.

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a contributor for GVI, and an alum of the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.


    By Tasneem Johnson-Dollie

    Tasneem Johnson-Dollie is a travel writer living in South Africa. She has experience in public health nutrition and worked as a dietician before launching her writing career. She loves bringing her passion for public health and sustainable development to every article she writes. Her travels around South Africa as well as to India, Australia, and Saudi Arabia have fueled her passion for exploration.