Remote working hasn’t suddenly sprung into being as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the number of people working from home has increased, both rapidly and significantly. Before mid-March, for example, just 1.3% of jobs listed on ZipRecruiter were for remote workers. That figure now stands at 11.3%. Across the US as a whole, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that some 29% of college graduates work from home at least part of the time.

For companies that employ staff who speak different languages, the sudden shift to remote working poses some additional headaches. Communication systems that were designed around on-site working arrangements can quickly unravel when teams are geographically dispersed. This is where remote interpretation comes in. Experienced phone interpreters can ensure that teams remain connected in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. They do this in several ways, as we explore in more detail below.

First, let’s take a look at precisely what interpretation services and over the phone interpretation entail.

What are interpretation services?

Interpretation services are not the same as translation services. What are translation and interpretation services? They are both forms of communicating that take one language and convert it to another. However, while translation deals with written language, interpretation services handle spoken language.

What are the different kinds of interpretation? There are two main kinds of interpretation that you are likely to need for business purposes. The first is consecutive interpretation, where the interpreter listens to each speaker and translates their words in turn, to allow a free ranging conversation to take place.

The second kind of interpretation that businesses tend to use is simultaneous interpretation. This is the service used at large conferences and events, where the audience listen via headsets to a real-time translation of the speaker’s words.

Why would remote working require the use of translation services?

Strong leadership is essential during times of crisis. This is particularly true when teams suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves working from home, despite their company never having been designed to enable remote working.

For business managers with staff who speak different languages, it’s important to ensure that everyone feels informed and involved in remote working arrangements. A professional translator can work wonders in this respect.

Of course, it’s not just companies that span the globe that require language services. Almost all countries are home to more than one language. In the US, for example, Census Bureau data reveals that 21.9% of residents speak a language other than English at home. In nine states, languages other than English are spoken at home by more than one in every four residents.

This doesn’t mean that those individuals can’t speak English, but their degree of proficiency will vary. Some will be fluent in English as well as the language they choose to speak at home. Others, however, will speak just enough to get by in the workplace, perhaps with the support of bilingual colleagues. Remove that support, for example by making everyone work from home, and suddenly the company is in need of an effective interpretation service if it wants to communicate successfully with all employees.

How can professional interpretation services help businesses to manage remote teams?

From a practical perspective, professional interpretation services can help businesses to manager their remote teams more effectively. They provide employers with the ability to communicate clearly with their employees. This ensures that each staff member understands what is required from them while they work from home and what the bigger picture is.

Translation and interpretation services have been provided online for years, so there are already excellent structures in place to enable these language services to work successfully. Businesses looking to source online translation and interpretation services during the COVID-19 pandemic will find a wealth of language services providers out there to assist them. All that is required is for the company to undertake the necessary due diligence for the translation company that they like the look of, just as they would with any other corporate supplier.

What are the advantages of using interpretation services to deliver successful remote working?

Used well, professional interpretation services can help businesses not just to get by with staff working remotely, but to thrive. An academic study published in 2015 found that employees who worked from home for a Chinese call centre were 13% more productive. They took fewer breaks and made a higher rate of calls per minute. The home-based employees also reported being happier and were less inclined to leave their jobs.

This, essentially, is what management teams have to gain if they embrace remote working in the right way. How do you effectively manage a remote team? Bringing language services into core operational processes when your staff speak more than one language can certainly help. Doing so can enable companies to maximize their output while also ensuring that all employees feel valued and appreciated.

It should be noted that this requires the use of expert interpreters. Between 70% and 93% of all communication is nonverbal, so leaders who are communicating with their employees over the telephone are already at a disadvantage when compared to those who have everyone in the office. To make up for this, they need to ensure that nothing is ‘lost in translation’ when holding meetings over the telephone.

Even during video calls, plenty of nonverbal communication is lost, as most callers only tend to have their face on the camera, meaning that body language is excluded from the communication.

As such, poor translation skills simply won’t cut it. Interpreters need to be expert linguists who are not only fluent in two languages but who also understand the business for which they are translating.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly given rise to some new challenges for plenty of employers, but it has also provided scope for creativity and flexibility in the way that services are delivered. For companies working with teams who speak different languages, one such opportunity is the use of remote interpretation services in order to boost morale, increase productivity and enhance loyalty. And what business wouldn’t want to do all that?

Entrepreneur Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a translation company specializing in providing interpretation services and localization services, whose work includes supporting clients around the globe to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interpretation services stock photo by niroworld/Shutterstock