What Is the Impact of Increased Remote Working on the Language Industry?

The pandemic has triggered a remote working revolution like no other, accelerating existing trends immeasurably. Yet not all industries were taken by surprise when it came to the need to suddenly shift to remote working.

Let’s look at one in particular – the language industry – to see what impact the pandemic has had.

Increased Remote Working and the Language Industry

The Translation Company Example

The language industry has been quietly embracing innovations in remote working for years. Translation companies such as Gengo, Pangeanic and Tomedes have offered remote services since long before any heard of Covid-19. Indeed, this kind of translation company is often a test case for pushing the boundaries of what can we achieve remotely. We pinned down translation company Tomedes CEO Ofer Tirosh and asked him why this is the case. He explains:

Translation companies have been using remote workers for decades. As a sector, we’ve been early adopters of everything from time tracking and collaboration tools to video calling software. I can think of many examples where we’ve embraced new technology as part of our best business practices long before many other sectors are even aware of its potential.

Ofer Tirosh, Tomedes CEO

This meant that, when the pandemic struck, most translation companies already had the structures they needed in place to collaborate successfully. Therefore, their employees were already working from home. But there were still ways in which the language industry had to adapt.

New Remote Work Opportunities

Interpreters are an excellent example of how the language industry has adapted to even more of a remote-first approach as a result of the pandemic.

Consider Zoom. Zoom was already doing very well before Covid struck. It had amassed 200 million meeting minutes after its first year of operations. However, the pandemic provided the perfect setting for growth that would have been previously unimaginable. At the time of writing, Zoom registers over 3.3 trillion meeting minutes per year.

That growth has come with plenty of opportunities for interpreters. Many of those who previously provided on-site services had to quickly adapt to interpreting remotely. And with Zoom offering simultaneous interpretation for webinars with live interpreters, there was plenty of scope to pick up remote work.

So while the language industry was well placed to deal with the travel restrictions that accompanied the spread of Covid-19, due to its strong foundation in remote working, there was still plenty that it had to change. Delivering services as part of a remote-only setup is substantially different to delivering them as part of a remote-first one.

What Does it Take to Work Remotely in the Language Industry?

Remote workers in the language industry need to have a certain set of core skills in order to succeed, just as other remote workers do. Focusing and avoiding procrastination are key, although thankfully there are plenty of tools out there to help with the latter.

Understanding how to motivate yourself is also very important. For some people, tracking time as they work helps them to enjoy bursts of energy as they push to get as much done as possible while the time ticks away. For others, motivation takes many different forms. It can be anything from wanting to finish at a certain time to setting quarterly goals to rewarding yourself with a favourite treat. Each translator – and other remote worker – needs to find what works in terms of their own personal motivations. Doing so can very quickly lead to enhanced productivity.

A degree of ‘get up and go’ also helps – remote workers often need to take the initiative more than those in the office. Understanding how to do this in a sensible way, which respects the limits of their own authority, while also getting things done, is a key contributor to successful remote work.

Is Remote Working Here to Stay?

Some companies fought against the need to move to a remote working structure and recalled their employees to the office at the first available opportunity. Others, however, took the opportunity to look at issues such as efficiency vs productivity before making any judgement about how remote work might be turned to their advantage over the longer term. The result is that many employers are now experimenting with hybrid remote/office working models.

Employee preferences also come into play here. Many employees have found that remote working provides them with a superior work/life balance and are keen to continue it in some form, either as a fulltime arrangement or as part of a hybrid model. The remote work debate has been blown wide open and everyone has a view to share based on their experiences since the beginning of the pandemic and their journey in adapting to working from home.

Remote working, it seems, is here to stay. And not just for those employed by a translation company. It’s estimated that 70% of employees will be working at home for least five days per month by 2025. Those in the language industry will, no doubt, still be embracing new technology designed to make remote working more efficient.

About the Author:

Louise Taylor is a writer with extensive experience of the language industry. She has been working remotely – productively and successfully – for the past eight years.