In-person vs. Virtual Internships

Are virtual internships as useful as in-person experiences?

When the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life in 2020, the way we work changed almost overnight. Many employees began working from home, originally expecting to return to the office within a few weeks. As it became clear that remote work would continue indefinitely, companies were forced to re-think their internships.

Coronavirus has transformed the workplace across the globe, as Zoom replaces conference rooms and dining room tables replace cubicles. Originally intended to be a temporary transition, many organizations are now seriously considering keeping their operations entirely remote. With these changes, many companies globally have moved their internship success online.

Saying this, remote working is still highly problematic in Cambodia. Particularly given the socio-economical inequalities in Cambodia and the existing digital divide. Some things to consider of going virtual:

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Internet connection

The vast majority of Cambodian students do not have high-speed internet connection at home, even if they say that their internet is OK. Their idea of OK internet for browsing Facebook or youtube, is different from your idea of fast internet to work on online software, be able to hold meetings on Zoom or collaborate on the Miro board with the rest of the team. There is only so many time you can say "Please switch your video on.", only to find out that at that point you lose your intern totally.

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Working place at home

Let's be honest most university students do not have a dedicated workspace at home, often they work from their bedroom or kitchen, which might not be the best working environment especially if shared with other members of the family or group of friends. Not ideal if you want your intern to concentrate during working hours.

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Building company culture

Building a strong company culture is extremely difficult to do online. Positive work culture and good communication help a team do much more than just implement their projects; these concepts help team members to excel in their tasks and rise to new heights. Getting team members to embrace collective values isn’t easy, whether they work in the same building or remotely. The problem with remote work is many employees don’t get to interact with their team leader or someone in authority. For most employees, this lack of interaction can easily cause them to lose self-esteem and make them think less of their role. Also, if they don’t get recognition from their boss for good work, they might become confused about whether or not they’re doing well in their job, this is true also for remote interns.

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Family pressure

Often families do not fully understand the concept of "working from home", how many times we have heard - you are home, why don't you just help me with.....

This is not to say that virtual internships are impossible within the Cambodian context. We have seen some very successful placements in the last 12 months, however it is important to assess if both the student and your company are ready for this type of working, and have the necessary management structure in place to ensure that this is both positive experiences for the student and your company.

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