Seven tips for productive remote working

Remote work

The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in 2020 caused drastic changes to the way we work. More than a year of living with the pandemic and many periods of lockdown has created the unprecedented situation in which working from home has become increasingly common: this is particularly true in the case of professional translation, an activity that by its very nature is more easily done from home, especially at a time when new digital technologies make remote working easier.

However, many people have difficulty organising their workday, finding the right tools and balancing their professional and personal lives while working from home. While most people working remotely will face similar problems, some are more specific to translation. Here are some tips for professionals in this field to help make your life as a translator working from home better and more productive.

1. Use technology to help manage your time and deadlines
One of the main benefits of remote working is flexibility. Sometimes, you might need to work late or start early to accommodate a client’s time zone or manage several projects simultaneously. However, in such circumstances, it is often easy to become disorganised and miss deadlines. You should define your working hours, draw up a plan of tasks and clear goals, and then stick to it as best you can.  Your computer or mobile device can be helpful: you can use online project management services like Trello or apps like RescueTime to help you keep on track.

2. Create a safe place in which to work
Not all translators enjoy the same conditions when working at home, but they need to try and create a physical space for work. Have a dedicated desk and tools (keyboard, mouse, paper, pens, etc.) for work-related tasks. If possible, this should be in the quietest part of the house, particularly in family homes with children. If you use a laptop for work, be sure only to translate when you are in this space, as this will help you keep your work separate from other domestic activities.

3. Use a secure internet connection
Translators working remotely from home also have to take into account the dangers of communicating over the internet. Whenever possible, they must use their home internet and avoid using the public Wi-Fi available in cafes, libraries and other public spaces. Translations often involve commercially and legally sensitive and confidential material. Information sent over an open internet connection can be intercepted quite easily! Yet one more important reason for having a dedicated workspace in the comfort of your home.

4. Separate your professional and personal lives

Mixing working hours with your personal time will harm your productivity and health. It is important to retain a balance. Stick to a daily routine, take regular exercise and time away from your computer to rest, get some fresh air and refocus. You should set aside time every day to work on translations and stick to these hours unless it is an emergency or you are working for a client in a different time zone.

5. Stay in regular contact with your colleagues, superiors and clients

Distance and the virtual nature of modern internet communication technologies make it difficult to maintain regular and effective communications and pass on important messages. Physical isolation and communication by phone or video call can often result in the wrong impression of a project’s status. Please don’t leave it too long before getting in touch with your colleagues, superiors or clients. It’s important to be proactive and avoid being isolated by regularly speaking to others involved in the project (during working hours), keeping a regular channel of communication open, demonstrating availability, resolving problems, and clearing up any doubts quickly and effectively.

6. Seek out training opportunities
One of the downsides of working remotely is the absence of office camaraderie and the general exchange of information between colleagues. This can lead to professional translators missing out on chances to acquire new knowledge, improve their work methods and opportunities to enhance their skills. To avoid this, translators employed by translation agencies should stay in regular contact with their colleagues and superiors to be kept informed of any available training courses that may be completed remotely under the circumstances.

For those working as freelancers (and others), working from home involves accessing the internet, where it is very easy to find training information and tools available in many formats: from tutorials (delivered in text or video format), online language forums or even officially certified language courses, as well as courses in machine translation and other resources.

7. Remember remote working is constantly changing
The huge increase in remote working resulting from the pandemic is an ongoing process that is constantly changing for most employers, clients and workers, which means they are always learning from and adapting to the situation as it develops, which can mean there may be changes to the way we work remotely as well as in attitudes towards it. If a client notices a sharp fall in productivity, this can have negative consequences for working terms and conditions and/or the organisation and management of deadlines. It could also result in a return to a more rigid form of office-based work.

On the other hand, well-managed remote working can result in greater flexibility that leads employers and clients to realise a lot of work can be done effectively from home. In addition to the logistical and cost benefits for all involved, remote working can also help with the work-life balance and reduce the stress felt by translators.