Are you all work and no play? When you meet with your virtual interns, are you “all business” all the time?
Having a fun work environment infuses energy, increases productivity, and improves intern retention. If both you and your interns are having fun and celebrating successes (instead of just doling out criticism and advice), then your interns will look forward to their internship hours, produce higher quality work (they’ll want to please you), and feel valued.
When you are working virtually, it can be even MORE important to build in the virtual fun, because you don’t have the gather-round-the-watercooler moments, or the ability to bring in donuts and coffee, or lunch, for the team, or to surprise your intern with a birthday cake.
So, here are 4 ways to have virtual fun with your interns (and it’s not that expensive, hard, or time-consuming):
1. Give Kudos with Fun Videos. When your intern does a great job, send your intern a link to a fun video with a brief note that pats them on the back.
Here are videos (with notes) we’ve sent in the past that you can use:
- “Our Team is Dy-no-mite!”
- “Thanks for getting us out of the bind!” or “You are the bomb!”
- “You are a super hero!”
2. Have a Virtual Office Party. Use skype or another video conferencing service, so you can see each other. It’s fun to give your party a theme.
One day, we did a “beach party.” I had on beach attire, sunglasses, and flip-flops, with Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” playing in the background. I was sipping on a fake margarita and had a fan, a beach towel, and even an umbrella in the background to get the full effect. One of the interns had a float ring around their waste, a wide-brimmed hat, and a Hawaiian floral print shirt. It took me 10-15 minutes to set up “the scene” and didn’t cost me (or the interns) anything. We just came to the video call with what we had.
Be creative! You can have any type of theme party: Halloween, Christmas, New Years, Birthday, Completed Project, Job Well Done, End of Internship, Surprise, Just for Fun, Thank You… The extra special touches (the dressing up, props, (Christmas lights, kazoos (you can get them at the dollar store), music, etc.) are what make it “real” and fun. Afterall, you would do those things if you were having an on-site party. You can have a party anytime, for anything.
3. Order Your Intern A Pizza On You. This might cost you $20, but you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this one. College students especially appreciate free food! But really anyone (who loves pizza) would love this.
You can do it as a surprise. Just Google local pizza delivery places near them, order and pay for the pizza (include delivery charges and gratuity so your intern pays nothing), and have it delivered to their home or dorm. You do just have to make sure they are home to accept it, so you may have to say “Do you have plans tonight? Please be home between 5 and 6 pm, I have something extremely urgent to send you, and I’ll need an immediate response.” They’ll think it’s a burning project, and then their doorbell will ring with a hot pizza! They’ll be blown away.
You can also just be upfront. That way you can ask them what their favorite kind of pizza is, what their favorite pizza delivery place is, and that they’ll be sure to be home. Whether it’s a surprise or not, either way, you’ve got a happy intern!
4. Have a Contest with a Prize. If you have a team of virtual interns, you can set a relevant goal. The winning intern will receive a $25 Amazon.com gift certificate (or a $10 Starbucks gift card). If you only have one intern, you can still say, “When you reach this goal, I’ll have a special prize for you.” Just be sure your goal IS reachable (don’t set the bar so high they won’t make it), and keep it for a short period of time, so they don’t lose motivation.
Remember a fun, virtual workplace = happy, motivated interns = great work = a super return on your investment. Plus you’ll have fun, too.
PS: Anything you might spend is probably a tax-deductible business expense. Keep your receipts, and check with your accountant.
About the author: Michelle Demers is Co-founder and 1/2 of the Dynamic Duo of Super Interns, a company that creates super internship programs for employers and schools of all sizes, and recruits, trains, and manages interns. Click here if you’d like an intern or an internship. You can also download a free copy of her ebook, “251 Super Internship Projects” at SuperInterns.com. Just look for the white box at the tops of the page.