BlogPersonal & Professional Wisdom

Working from Home is Nothing Futuristic for the Localization Industry

If you think of the real beating heart of our professional world, i.e. the millions of freelance translators working from their own homes, it’s easy to realize that remote work has been instilled in the DNA of our industry globally since forever, as a true enabler of anything we do. Every day, remote interpreters help people access the healthcare or justice systems no matter where they are based, “literally” changing or saving lives as WFH professionals.
Many Language Service Providers also equipped themselves with the tools and technology to adopt remote work early on to break barriers across geographies, thus gaining a competitive advantage to achieve global expansion faster. As this interesting Nimdzi report shows, language services professionals are 25 points more likely to work remotely than employees of other industries, our industry is more remote-friendly than any others (including the tech industry) – more on the vendor side than on the buyer side. Definitely one of our biggest strengths!
So what is changing after the COVID-19 outbreak? Everyone suddenly had to jump on the WFH bandwagon. Routines, processes and ways of communicating have seen a dramatic change. New unique challenges are upon employees and managers. In light of this, Women in Localization is keen to share useful tips to experience remote work in the healthiest, happiest and most productive way.
1. Productivity: test your technology and devices, do not overwork and avoid distractions.
2. Look after your health: optimize office space, practice “snack distancing”, keep hydrated, stretch regularly and follow official advice on COVID-19.
3. Communicate regularly and professionally: look professional, mute yourself when not talking, inform flat mates/family of scheduled calls and add a personal touch to your video calls.
1. Productivity
• Start your day by checking in with Technology! – connect to your VPN, check your computer/connection are working and that you saved IT contacts in case any issues arise. If you are not using a corporate laptop, it is worth bookmarking folders, websites and files you open every day and ensuring you have a good antivirus. Download IM apps e.g. MS Teams, Slack, Jabber or Skype on your phone, too, to have a backup.
• Define clear start and finishing working hours – it’s SO easy to lose track of time when you don’t have a train home to catch. Sticking to your standard office hours is a great tip to maintain the same mental timeframes and routines. Data shows that the hours employees spend at a desk are not connected with their levels of performance, so make good use of your 8 hours, do not overdo.
• Structure your day exactly as if in the office – you are working from home… so what? You can still use your to-do lists, Trello, ClickUp, project trackers and reminders to keep on top of everything. Leave the laundry to after working hours and don’t waste time scrolling on social media (or disable notifications when you need to stay focused). You wouldn’t watch Netflix or TV in the office so, goes without saying, those distractions are off the table!
• Just.Get.Things.Done. and you will feel like a million dollars! – For those new to WFH, you may be surprised that you will have far fewer interruptions at home than in the office. So, make the most out of this! Go through that Outlook “To do later” folder; watch that training video you saved 3 months ago and enjoy the priceless sense of accomplishment of finally ticking off old stuff on your list.
• Up-skill in your free or commuting time! Udemy, Coursera, you name it. There’s a world of opportunity out there to keep learning and level up your skills! Using your commuting time and money on this is an investment and your days will go by faster.
2. Look after your health
• Your mental health is the TOP priority for you and for your company – first rule is, again, do not get sucked into a work spiral or get trapped in your inbox! Burning the midnight oil regularly leads to burnout in the long term. Rule number 2: your mental health starts with YOU! Know what YOU need to have a good day and design your day accordingly. Do you live alone or just get energized by being surrounded by people? Shake off loneliness with regular video lunch/coffee breaks with colleagues. Is exercise your way to blow off steam? There are a myriad apps and YouTube channels that offer regular 10-minute workout routines and Zumba classes. Miss your evenings at the pub? Have plenty of after-work friends/family catch ups. Talk, talk, talk and do not be afraid to over-communicate to balance social distancing.
• Invest in creating an optimal office space – if you live in a tiny city flat like me and have no space to buy an actual desk, an ergonomic chair and all that jazz… be creative! I have just bought a folding camping table and invested in a second monitor to go easy on my sight. Alternate sitting and standing desks if possible, your body will thank you later. Make sure your room is well lit and has proper temperature and ventilation. Don’t be afraid to ask your company if they are able to support you with this in any way.
• Move around and stretch – as mentioned above, it is easy to lose track of how long you have been sitting. It is vital to take regular breaks and stretch your legs. If you are VCing on coffee breaks, use your phone and move around the house. Do stretching exercises for your hands and back. Do not forget the simple correct posture rules.
• Practice “snack distancing” and have regular meals – if you can, do not set your office near the fridge because it is SUPER hard to avoid snacking! If you know you’re going to need a cuppa every few hours, add this to your calendar too and do it in a “planned” way. Commit to having lunch at a defined time every day, as it is also easy to forget eating and hydrate yourself when WFH sometimes!
• Drink Water – this advice comes from someone who had to resort to Fitbits and other techy tricks to remind her brain to drink water! Use them too if you aren’t drinking 2 liters of water a day.
• Follow the advice of official health professionals – wash your hands, protect yourself when going out, don’t touch your face. If you feel unwell, call your local or national health emergency services and avoid fake news!
3. Communicate regularly and professionally
• Always look professional when you are video calling your stakeholders – how many last-minute VCs have we done in the past week? Do not come unprepared. Feel more confident with make up on? Get ready beforehand. Prefer to wear comfortable clothing? A “semi-professional” look will do, and nobody will notice. Do not show messy environments in the background. And some IMs provide a blurred background setting option FYI.
• Mute yourself if you are not talking in a group chat – some employees are not lucky enough to work in quiet home environments but it’s just good practice to get into the habit of doing this all the time.
• Advise others in the home of your scheduled calls – to all localization pros having to WFH while trying to entertain their kids, this will be a learning curve. Set strict start and finish hours for you (and your partner, if applicable); have one mid-morning and mid-afternoon break (one per partner, if applicable), so as to keep the kids entertained. During work, share a “do not disturb” during important calls. Plan ahead activities for the kids. Set aside some switch-off time too: since there will be no clear-cut separation between your work and family life, you’d probably need some time to decompress.
• Make it personal and spontaneous – let’s bring positivity and laughs during team meetings! Show your cat, house, family, kids, open up your world to connect further and be closer to your team. A daily ‘hello’ in group and individual chats goes a long way. For managers, you may want to use video calls to keep up with your team, to make them feel less isolated (especially extroverts) and ensure all is going well with them. And, why not, share new tips on how to work remotely? Videos increase the sense of collaboration and show non-verbal (both auditory and visual) communication cues which prevent misunderstandings.
• Regularly over-communicate – keep your management and leadership regularly informed, make sure visibility is maintained through relevant emails and chats and you will be fine. Just like you would do in the office.
It is hard to predict what will come when we will all go back to the office, but surely a major mindset shift is already happening and there will probably be no going back. This will be a big stress test not just for businesses, but also for couples, parents, families! Companies may realize the full potential of remote work and all that comes with it: the opportunity to REALLY hire the best talent who cannot be recruited locally, based on merit, as well as to increase diversity, inclusion and belonging.
Women in Localization wishes everyone a healthy, sociable and productive remote working era.
W.L offers a strong platform for women to develop their careers in localization – an open, collaborative forum where women can network, share expertise and experience, and help each other move forward in their careers. Connect with Women in Localization Worldwide: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Karen Gammarota