Your Questions Answered – At Home with W.L. UK
It has been a couple of months since we held the first-ever online event for Women in Localization U.K. on 3 April 2020. And what an exciting evening it was!
In the midst of the Coronavirus peak, we created a unique opportunity to have an honest and open debate about the experience of working from home: a new/sudden adventure for some of us, and a very well-established routine for others.
We managed to put these two perspectives together by listening to the stories of 4 incredible localisation professionals from different backgrounds: LSP, entrepreneur, freelance and remote employees. The panel and all participants’ interventions and interaction made our event a true success, despite the inability to see each other in person.
During our special event “At Home with Women in Localization UK”, a forum for questions was also opened on Slido. Thanks to all of you who shared your questions, challenges, concerns. We have not forgotten about your unanswered queries and have asked our panellists to share their views. Here are some insightful thoughts from:
- Ruth Partington, Chair of the UK ATC
- Kasia Kosmaczewska, Solutions Architect at Appen
- Claire Vosper, Implementation Manager at Epson Europe
- Inger Larsen, Larsen Globalization Recruitment
As an LSP, how do you keep your clients posted on any service disruptions due to COVID-19?
Ruth: For my LSP, initially we thought about reaching out with a ‘business as usual’ message, but in fact it wasn’t necessary. We haven’t experienced any service disruptions due to COVID-19, it has been rather the opposite! We’re keen to keep our freelance team working as much as possible, and that is mutual, especially for those based in countries which have been hardly hit by the pandemic. We also set up a special COVID-19 rapid response service for clients and expanded our offering to support them evenings and weekends and our freelance team has been happy to be part of that process. We’re naturally set up to work from home/work remotely, so there was almost no impact in terms of how we continued either.
Are you finding that COVID-19 has substantially reduced the amount of localisation and translation work your companies have received?
Ruth: We did suffer an initial hit, but it was more a gentle dip than a substantial reduction, and mainly due, we think, to the transfer of business from office to home for our clients. Now we’re pretty much back to 2019 levels, if anything slightly more (up about 4%), but the shape of the business is changing and we’re developing other linguistic services which haven’t hitherto been requested (mainly AV and online interpreting.)
Any thoughts on how companies/team leaders can correctly manage the process to go back to office work once lockdown is over?
Ruth: This can be really challenging. We’re finding that some of our team are keen to get back to the office but jumping through the government regulations has already been costly to us and every member of our team who wants to come back into the office will have to undergo extensive (2-3 hour) re-entry training. Working out contact tracing processes is also going to take its toll. We have taken a very relaxed approach to this – if you want to come back in, you can, but if you feel times remain too uncertain, then you don’t have to. There is no right or wrong here, and as with the reopening of schools, we firmly believe the choice remains with each individual until such time as we are all confident that returning to the office environment is as risk-free as it was prior to COVID-19. It is important to consider what gaps have appeared as a result of remote working and work with team leaders and individuals to see how those can be filled, whether that’s creating some sort of physical and safe (socially-distanced) collaborative environment or moving over to more sophisticated online offerings. Mental well-being needs to be at the heart of the considerations here, younger teams/team members are more likely to need access to a safe physical environment, even if only for a day or two a week.
What industry do you expect to come back to, post-COVID-19?
Ruth: A significantly more advanced one in terms of technology. Now is the chance to reinvent ourselves, take advantage of quieter times to explore what technology is out there and how it can support us better. I would hope to see significant improvements in internal operations, a stronger reflection on how we collaborate (client-only LSPs, MLVs, SLVs, freelancers) and some game-changing approaches to the solutions LSPs offer clients and freelancers alike. There is much to celebrate both now and, in the future, what will shine is our authenticity in our desire to embrace the opportunities Covid-19 has presented and our enthusiasm for keeping our industry alive, relevant and appropriately valued.
Topic: Mental health
Would you suggest reducing the unnecessary meetings that could have been an email?
Kasia: Nobody likes having their time wasted and I agree that certain matters are best left to emails. We should respect each other’s busy schedules at all times. However, calls mean so much more than just passing information or getting your questions answered. Seeing each other’s body language and listening to the tone of voice instead of reading an email not only helps with building and cementing relationships but also increases communication efficiency. When you wouldn’t typically exchange comments about holidays or house pets over email, calls allow for more personal conversations and help us learn more about our conversation partners. We are social animals after all and I feel that calls give us the opportunity to socialise, which can’t be said about emails.
I’m affected by the high-intensity virtual connecting syndrome. Find it draining and I’ve reduced screen time after work. Any tips?
Kasia: My best tip would be to schedule some time to “detox” from electronic devices. It doesn’t have to be anything radical. For instance, for me this is the time when I take my dog for a walk. I purposefully leave my phone and even my smartwatch at home to make sure I am not distracted by messages and can dedicate my full attention to enjoying the walk and playing with the dog. In that way, both me and the dog get the most out of that time. Every now and then, particularly during the weekends, I also give my family and friends a pre-warning that I am planning a day / afternoon / a few hours without my phone so that if they don’t hear from me for a while, they don’t get worried. And then I stick to not looking at my phone for that period of time. Although it’s hard to stop yourself from checking your phone, there is something extremely calming and satisfying when you manage to achieve a few phone-free hours.
Has isolation and the uncertainty of contracting the disease affected your mental balance and professional performance? If it has, how are you dealing with it?
Claire: I’ve not been very concerned about contracting the disease and working from home has worked well for me – our existing IT infrastructure made this a pretty straightforward transition. What I really miss is being with my team and the interaction we have on a daily basis. Communication works remotely but I find it takes much longer to have discussions as this needs to be more planned and ‘formal’ rather than just being able to have a brief conversation to resolve queries and overcome obstacles. It’s important to take days off away from your computer to maintain healthy mental health and get outside for fresh air and a change of scenery. Having a 2-year-old to look after also keeps you grounded as for him every day is just as it was!
I live alone and feel very isolated. Any tips on how to cope with COVID-19 isolation?
Claire: I’m personally not living alone, but for those who do, I know that the phone and video calls has really been a lifeline. More recently with the new ‘rules’ it has also made a really positive difference to be able to see loved ones from a distance outside – almost felt ‘normal’.
Topic: Remote working
Do you believe it’s more distracting to work in the office? I find it more distracting – why do many companies believe otherwise?
Kasia: Working from home is not for everyone, so I would be wary of generalising here. Some find the presence of other people, particularly their managers or other team members, motivating and this is easily achieved in an office environment. On the other hand, there are also people, and I am counting myself in this category, who are most efficient when they are not being distracted or, which is closer to reality, prefer managing their own distractions. What I mean by that is that in an office, we have little control over whether or when someone will come over to our desk for a chat. At home, on the other hand, it ultimately depends on ourselves whether we want to reach for the cupboard for a bit of chocolate or whether we succumb to a sudden urge to do some hoovering. We know ourselves best and the speed with which we are then able to go back to working efficiently partly depends on the distraction itself. There isn’t one solution that would work for absolutely everyone and that is exactly why I believe that wherever possible companies should allow employees to choose which working environment – office or their own home – they prefer.
Do you have any advice to tackle training new employees that are due to start during the lockdown period (remotely and with limited access to resources)?
Kasia: In my own experience, onboarding a new employee is a team effort. It shouldn’t be just the manager guiding the newbie through the meanders of new knowledge. Each team member should feel responsible for scheduling some time with the new employee and not only welcoming them but also sharing any practical tips that helped them when they first started. Regular check-ins definitely help build relationships, but managers need to be patient and bear in mind that the learning curve might be affected by the lack of face-to-face training. Many companies already have online-based training resources which no doubt have become even more essential during the lockdown. Technology is definitely our friend here.
How can managers ensure their reports are not overworking?
Claire: My team have worked well together and have flagged where they have been concerned about any individual overworking. The challenge is in many cases individuals get bored when not working so it’s keeping them occupied. As Managers, we need to be alert as to when e-mails are being sent and try and spread the workload as evenly as possible.
Do you have any tips when working from home with kids? // What is your advice on best practices to succeed at living and interacting 24/7 with those living in the same household as you (partner, kids, flatmates…)?
Claire: It depends very much on people’s individual circumstances as to how challenging this is. Where colleagues have been home schooling, it’s important to take some ‘me’ time if at all possible, otherwise you end up working/looking after kids 24/7 which can’t be maintained forever. We have found that going for walks and taking our boy out individually at the weekends has meant the other one gets a bit of a break.
How can managers ensure the maximum productivity of their teams?
Claire: I think in these circumstances it’s not all about maximum productivity, but rather supporting individuals as much as possible to maintain their physical and mental health whilst still performing well. Practically speaking, ensuring that the technical set up of each employee is working well as if they are in the office goes a long way to ensuring productivity levels are maintained.
I am worried that my company will start cutting jobs from localisation because perceived as a cost and not a revenue generator. How to prove that we are essential?
Inger: Take these two examples:
- Microsoft earns more than half of their revenues – $125 billion in total in 2019 – from outside of the US.
- Facebook’s Spanish Translations app has an average of 500 billion views per month on average.
What is your advice on finding remote work opportunities for Localisation PMs? What companies would you recommend?
Inger: There are companies out there that are tapping into the vast and wonderful talent pool of remote talent, both as a regular business model and in the current situation as an intermediate solution. One common denominator for both models is that these companies need people who are a close match in terms of skills and experience to what they need, so please be realistic when you apply for their jobs.
I am a freelance translator worried about getting work. Where is best to apply now? Which sectors have increased their localisation activities due to the COVID-19 situation? Does it make sense to look for work as a localisation PM right now?
Inger: This varies hugely by sector. The games, tech and life sciences industries are doing very well. Travel and hospitality are not. There are also companies such as automotive and manufacturing that have reinvented themselves and now produce essential materials and equipment such as PPE and ventilators.
Could you share some advice on how to deal with WFH awarded only to some people in the company (male vs female, or mothers vs non-mothers)?
Inger: In the UK every employee has the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of employment. This must be decided upon within three months of receipt and employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request. Bear in mind that you can only make one request in any 12-month period. Also see https://www.acas.org.uk/
If you live outside the UK, check your local regulations.
Do you think localisation employers and LSPs will take advantage of this uncertainty to lower wages and rates?
Inger: I have already heard that some have tried. It is important that the localisation industry stand firm and together. The ATC is a great source of information and guidance in the UK: https://atc.org.uk/coronavirus-support/
I know someone who convinced a company to WFH after the interview stage and landed a remote job. Is it ok to ask at the end? Or best to ask first and then interview?
Inger: Usually it is best to find out first or you could end up wasting a lot of your and the company’s time. If there is a fantastic match and fit, you are in a stronger position though.
Thanks again to all of you for submitting your questions to Women in Localization UK and to our panellists for addressing them. We hope you have found these answers as interesting as we did!
It has been almost three months since the lockdown has started for most of us in the UK and it is vital to remember that you are not simply ‘working from home’. You’re at home, during a crisis, trying to work.
If you are experiencing challenges due to COVID-19, do not be afraid to reach out to your network, and do not miss any chance to connect with your W.L. local tribe!
Let’s stay connected and lift each other up, we will be more united, and we will grow stronger together.