Supporting co-op students remotely

Co-op student working in their home office

NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UWaterloo co-op students are currently required to complete their work terms from within Canada (some exceptions may apply). If you're an international or US employer you'll need to understand how this affects you.

Co-op students can still work for you remotely. Canada has regulations for foreign entities hosting co-op students from Canada if you don't have a Canadian office. You should seek your own independent advice (we can't consult or advise):

How does paying your remote co-op students work for your company? (i.e. via a professional payroll service)

padlockSecurity and privacy

How will you protect security and privacy of the work being done from a Canadian location?

checklist and warning signWorkplace safety

What workplace safety rules and liabilities might apply for co-op students working remotely?

handshakeEmployment contract

Will your student be considered an employee of your company, or will they be hired as an independent contractor?


We are seeing an increasing number of work-from-home options due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Good news - working remotely can be a great option! We've connected with our co-op employers and students to collect best practices to help you transition your co-op student(s) to work remotely:

1) Clearly communicate guidelines and expectations for working remotely

Many co-op students are new to the workforce and have not had remote work experience. It’s wise to establish a central place for staff to access supporting documents from home. This would include work from home policies, guidelines, expectations, ways to obtain support, and notes on flexibility.

Students ask:

  • Do I still need to work my original 9-5 hours, or is there flexibility?
  • Am I expected to respond to emails that come after hours?
  • Will aspects of my role be adjusted to support remote work?

Resources for support:

2) Offer a clear system for tracking and managing work

You need to be clear about how your employees can track their work, be accountable for their actions, resolve conflicts, and keep in touch with core members of the team for guidance and collaboration.

Students ask:

  • How do I log my time and ensure accountability for my work?
  • What happens if I receive an ask that I can’t facilitate in my home environment? (i.e. sending or receiving physical items from a storage room)
  • Will there be instructions to help guide me through using new technology? (i.e. how to connect to the VPN, navigate file servers, appropriately save files, or use Skype or Teams appropriately)

Resources for support:

3) Provide reliable technology and resources

While most people only require a computer, phone, strong WiFi and reliable software to work in remote locations, ensure you ask your team what their needs are. It’s also good to have open communication channels, along with a reliable video/phone conferencing system (i.e. Outlook, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Slack).

Students ask:

  • What if my WiFi is unreliable?
  • What if I go over my WiFi bandwidth – can I be reimbursed?
  • What course of action will be taken if I don’t have access to technology/software or resources required for my position?

Resources for support:

4) Ensure leadership visibility and communication

In order to successfully transition your staff to work remotely, you need to ensure everyone – especially supervisors and leadership team members – are present, visible and available to be reached online.

Students ask:

  • Is there an individual I can contact if I need an immediate response on an urgent matter?
  • Will there be designated times where the full team will be online for questions/open discussion? (i.e. digital team meetings, project-specific collaboration meetings)
  • Can I have firmly scheduled one-on-one meetings with my supervisor?

Resources for support:

5) Consider new ways to unify your team

It is key to understand that remote work might not be easy, or even possible, for every industry or team. It takes time to get comfortable working from home and shifting company policies to allow for remote work won’t happen overnight. Think about how you can unify your team to begin working from home and establish a plan to keep teams connected and communicative while they are off-site.

Students ask:

  • How can you ensure I’m developing critical skills that meet my co-op student evaluation requirements? (i.e. teamwork and interpersonal communication)
  • How can you help ensure that my performance evaluation will not be negatively affected by working remotely?
  • Will there be any exceptions or circumstances around engaging as a team remotely? (i.e. will there be times where we are clearly still required to work or collaborate in-person?)

Resources for support:

Additional resources: