In 2016, I decided to move from the UK to Germany for family reasons, but was reluctant to give up a job that I loved. Fortunately, Balthasar lived up to its reputation as an insightful and forward-thinking employer, and invested in me so that I could continue to work from my new home in Rheinland-Pfalz.
Initially, my main concerns were that I would miss the routine of getting out of the house and going into the office every day, and being surrounded by the friendly, supportive team at Balthasar. In practice however, I quickly found that Skype is an excellent substitute – and while it’s not the same as seeing my colleagues in person, it is then all the more special when I do go back to the UK to visit. Skype also has a fantastic screen sharing function, which makes it very easy for me to show my colleagues what I’m currently working on, look at a technical issue together, or demonstrate, live on-screen, how a new process works. It also soon became clear that there were other benefits to working from home that outweighed and allayed my doubts. As a translator, you basically require an awful lot of peace and quiet to be able to get on with your work. You are simply very focused on the text on the screen in front of you, and any background noise tends to be a distraction.
Furthermore, I use Dragon speech recognition software from Nuance when translating – translators rack up a huge number of keystrokes and mouse clicks throughout their working day, opening up the potential for repetitive strain problems. Speech recognition software allows you to speak to your computer instead, but as you may imagine, this is much more practical when on your own than amid the hubbub of a shared office! Dragon learns to recognise the way you speak and the specific vocabulary that you use, which is extremely helpful given the specialised technical texts that Balthasar translates. What’s more, you can program custom commands to speed things up. For example, I frequently need to write temperatures in a specific format, e.g. 65 °C = [number][non-breaking space][degree symbol][C], which is eight manual keystrokes to type, or ten syllables to dictate; I have programmed Dragon so that I simply have to say “65 zap” and it writes all these characters correctly for me. You can also use Dragon to control your computer – open and close files, dictate and send an email, look something up on the internet, etc. – all by voice. In many cases, this software therefore not only helps me to work more ergonomically, but also makes me faster and more efficient.
Working from home is certainly not something that would suit everybody or every profession, and I think there needs to be a good level of trust in place between the employer and employee for it to be at all feasible. I love the sense of productivity and being able to immerse myself in my work, and now, nearly two years on, I can’t imagine any other way of working. Technology plays such a big part in this, and I am sure it will become even cleverer as time goes on, allowing us to work and interact effectively, no matter where in the world we happen to be.
By Emma Pielen