Coronavirus work from home lessons from the translation industry

The coronavirus outbreak has seen companies embrace home working (willingly or not) like never before. For those who were entirely unprepared to even consider home working prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the learning curve is particularly steep. However, there are lessons that we can learn from certain industries that have been embracing home working for years – such as the translation and localization industry.

Working from home – lessons in translation

What kind of work can I do from home? This used to be the key consideration for those looking to work remotely. Suitable types of home-based work tended to include copy writing, graphic design, social media marketing, translation, localization and so forth.

Of late, the focus has been more on making office-based jobs somehow work in a remote setting, regardless of whether it makes sense to do so!

This is where examples from the translation and localization industry really come into their own. Other than general work from home tips, it won’t hurt to try to be more efficient at home under quarantine by taking inspiration from a sector that has been in the work from home game for a long time already.

First, and mostly importantly, home workers need the right setup. This relates to both the place in which they work and the kit that they use. There are no set rules here. Some people will be at their most productive while working from bed in their PJs at 3 am. Others will shine when working from a dedicated home office while keeping regular office hours. It’s about what works best for the individual in question and what fits around their lifestyle.

Finding the right tools for the job – the freelance translation example

Finding the right location for your home working takes a bit of trial and error, as does ensuring that you have the right tools at your disposal.

The kit that you need will depend on your job. In the translation and localization sector, for example, a freelance translator will need a laptop, a reliable internet connection and a selection of appropriate apps and pieces of software – computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and the like.

If your home working experience was unplanned, then experiment with the tools that you use to find out how you can simulate the office environment and substitute face-to-face meetings with appropriate alternatives. Many people swear by Skype; others are Zoom aficionados. Some workers rely on Slack, while others prefer Flock. Trial different options to discover what works best for you.

Think about the way that you work

Working from home is very different from working in an office. You are entirely responsible for how productive you are, with nobody there watching over your shoulder to keep you focused and on task. This means you need to think about the way that you work and the way that you prioritise tasks. If you’re juggling home-schooling your children while working, this becomes even more important!

There are plenty of tools and apps out there to help you prioritise, just as there are apps available to help you work more productively. Again, experiment with what works for you personally.

It’s important to think about your mental health needs too. Being isolated from your colleagues can have a major impact on some people, even without the additional isolation from friends and family that coronavirus has created. Take some time to plan ways to meet your mental health needs while working from home. You will benefit from doing so and so will your work.

Another work from home lesson that the professional translation and localization sector provides is the importance of standards. When you translate for a living, the quality of your work has a huge impact on how much you can earn. How much money can you make as a translator? Currently, Indeed reports an average salary of £25,262 per year in the UK. For those who maintain top standards and specialise, it’s possible to earn much more; the upper figure on the salary distribution scale is £55,000.

The point here is that when you work from home, you need to maintain scrupulous standards in order to maximise your success.

Translating ideas into action

During the current coronavirus outbreak, those looking to make the most out of working from home also need to be flexible. The world has changed, rapidly and for the foreseeable future. Workers who show they can be adaptable in such circumstances and who can swiftly translate new ideas into action are those whom companies will value.

Change isn’t easy for everyone to embrace. If you find it hard to adapt, that’s something to work on! The novel coronavirus had spread to 203 countries as at 30 March 2020 and we’re around 18-24 months away from having a viable, mass-produced vaccine. This situation isn’t likely to be resolved any time soon.

Just as online translators have had to adapt their services to account for the growth of machine translation, so too will home workers need to flex both their working practices and their mindsets in order to deal with the ongoing pandemic.

What support is there for home workers?

The final lesson that we can learn from professional translators is that there’s plenty of support out there for those who seek it – and that it never hurts to ask for help.

Whether you’re struggling with working from home, suffering mentally due to isolation or simply looking to replace the office banter with a remote solution, forums and Facebook groups can provide a much-needed outlet.

Coronavirus has turned life as we know it upside down in many respects but that doesn’t mean we have to be alone. Being able to reach out to other people virtually has rarely been of greater value. Just be sure to balance social media use with your day job. Facebook, Twitter and the like can be a major distraction, so if you’re prone to procrastination, it may be best to limit your exposure to such sites during working hours.

The COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way that we work beyond all recognition. Use the lessons above, which we’ve pulled out of the translation and localization industry, to ensure that you keep pace with this new reality.

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