When preparing for your first day at your new job, there are some key questions to ask your employer. For example, if your employer specifies that you can work a flexible schedule, make sure that you clarify what that means. There may be a set “core” hours during the day where every employee is expected to be online. For other workplaces, employees might be expected to begin their work day within a certain time period ( e.g., between 8-10am). Other good questions to ask your supervisor so that you’re both on the same page include:

  • How should I communicate my working hours to the team?
  • Am I expected to track my time?
  • When are team meetings?
  • When and how should I report or meet with my supervisor?
  • With whom will I work closely and what are their roles?
  • What technology do I need?
  • Are there any login credentials I should set up?
  • When are any events/sessions/meetings I should attend during your first week?
  • What should I do if I am sick and unable to work?
  • How will my performance be evaluated?

Ensure that you have an ergonomic workspace setup in order to reduce possible injury and discomfort. Some basic rules of thumb include not working from your bed or couch and making sure you don’t slump over your computer all day long. Instead, work from a desk or table where you can prop your laptop so that your head faces the screen with your shoulders relaxed. This may mean you’ll have to use an external keyboard and mouse, have an additional screen, or prop up your computer on some books or a laptop stand. Ideally, this set up would also allow you to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees, with your forearms supported by either the armrests of your chair or by your table.

Your employer may provide you with a work computer or a phone, depending on the nature of your role. A computer with a webcam may be particularly important in order to connect “face-to-face” with your team during calls. Reliable internet connection will be key in any remote position. If needed, hardwire your computer into the modem in order to have a stronger connection when using video conferencing. Lastly, try to create a dedicated work space in your home to limit distractions. If you have any concerns about your work station setup, ask your supervisor for help to troubleshoot the situation. And most importantly, don’t forget to take breaks and walk around to energize yourself.

If your employer isn’t able to supply you with the equipment needed to do your work remotely, contact your university’s office of experiential learning/education as they may be able to help you.

Like in-person meetings, conference calls have a couple of etiquette rules that you should follow:

  • Show up a few minutes early, especially if you’ve never used the video conferencing platform before in case you need to download a new application.
  • Once logged into the call, introduce yourself or greet others already on the call.
  • When you’re not speaking, ensure that you’re muted in order to reduce background and typing noise. Try to be in a quiet location if you can.
  • Be mindful of your nonverbal communication. If you have your camera connected during a call, be mindful of your facial expressions and aware that others can see you. Try smiling and nodding to the speaker in order to be better involved in the conversation.
  • If you’re the one organizing a meeting, send calendar invites with an agenda attached so that everyone can review it prior to the meeting and add any additional agenda items if needed. Ensure that there is a notetaker for the meeting if necessary.

Getting to know your team while working remotely can be hard. Try to join any end of week informal catch-up or morning virtual coffee groups if they already exist. If there are any other interns, connect once a week or as needed in order to get to know them better. Invite colleagues to grab a “virtual coffee” on a rotating basis to learn more about their role and their current projects. If you have time during team meetings, consider including check-in or icebreaker questions which will help team spirit and collaboration. And if your team uses Slack or any informal messaging tool, offer to create more casual channels, such as #random, #pets, #cooking, #entertainment where people can chime in when they have time.

Before speaking with your manager, think about what (if anything) you feel is necessary to share. Just because you may have a health concern or illness does not require you to disclose it to your supervisor. 

If you do decide to have this conversation, schedule a face-to-face (even if it’s virtual) meeting with your supervisor. Start the meeting by thanking them for taking the time to listen to you. From there, state that you have a personal matter to bring to their attention and describe your health concern in a matter-of-fact tone. Explain the extent to which it has been affecting your ability to work, and explain any steps you’ve taken to manage the concern. If you know of ways your supervisor can provide support to you, offer these suggestions. Stay solution-oriented. Give your supervisor an opportunity to respond and ask any questions. At the end, thank them for taking the time to meet with you, and discuss next steps if appropriate.

Your Office of Experiential Learning/Education is also a great resource to help you navigate these personal conversations with your employer.