Since the emergence of COVID-19, we have received queries from our clients, suppliers and employees about the impact of the virus on our operations. As we witness its rapid spread in many countries around the world, we have the health and safety of our employees and clients at the fore of our minds.
We have implemented an internal coronavirus policy to minimise the risk of passing the disease on from colleague to colleague. In line with the steps taken by many other companies, we have restricted business travel to and from affected regions. We’re also taking steps to prevent employees showing symptoms from working in our offices.
For many years, we’ve been a pioneering company when it comes to flexible and remote working. A full 55% of our workforce across the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland already work remotely on a permanent basis. Many employees based in our UK and Sweden offices regularly work from home one or more days a week. We are also reviewing how we can facilitate working from home where possible for employees who are currently office based.
The fact that over half of our workforce in four key countries already works from home means that we are well positioned to maintain the continuity of our business during an event such as the spread of COVID-19. Physical contact between employees is minimised, and remote workers are less likely to contract the virus as they are not required to use public transport on a daily basis or sit in close proximity to colleagues.
We’re committed to not making any of our employees suffer financially if they’re suddenly landed with unplanned childcare issues and can’t work as normal. Starting today, we’re talking to each parent on our payroll to see how their working hours will be impacted if and when their child’s school is closed. We’ll agree flexible hours and accept exceptional working hours earlier and later in the day to maintain our service levels.
As for some of our clients remote working will be a new and unfamiliar challenge, we thought this would be a good opportunity to share some tips for adjusting to life working from home.
1. Keep the communication going
At STP, we use a few different tools to keep business communication and office camaraderie going no matter where our employees are based. In addition to annual team get-togethers in person and daily communication via email, we use Microsoft Teams for instant messaging. We encourage employees to use it for informal chats as well as business-related ones – this is vital for building relationships between colleagues, but also staying on top of each other’s wellbeing.
One of the commonest complaints from remote workers is the sense of isolation. Sometimes you just need to vent about a stressful day – in an office you’d normally just turn to your nearest colleague – so it’s important to be able to do this even when you’re not physically sitting side by side.
We also use Yammer, a Facebook-like social platform, to encourage the kind of conversations that would normally emerge around the watercooler or whilst making a cup of tea. People can post links to articles they found interesting, make social plans or just swap GIFs. This type of platform isn’t too disruptive – you can pop in and out as and when you have time – and it creates the sense of an ongoing series of conversations that are open to everyone.
2. Set work–life boundaries
Something that’s easy to sleepwalk into when working remotely is the blurring of lines between your work life and home life. Although the allure of working on a laptop in bed in your pyjamas might sound appealing at first, this can lead to increased stress and discomfort as it disrupts sleep hygiene and can lead to ergonomic problems.
Working at the same desk or in the same room every day at the same time creates a sense of rhythm and routine, and creates a mental association with work and that area of your home. Some of our employees incorporate a daily walk into their routine, either in the morning so it feels like they’re walking to ‘the office’, or during their lunch break. This creates a physical and mental separation between the ‘work’ and ‘home’ parts of your day.
Physical movement is also important. The benefits to your body of getting up from your desk regularly are widely recognised, but it can also have a positive mental impact. Stepping away from the desk to do stretches or gaze out the window provides a small moment of respite and refreshment and can help reduce stress peaks. Another good tip is to eat lunch away from your working area in order to give yourself a proper break.
3. Enjoy your new-found freedom
Despite its pitfalls, remote work has lots of perks. The time saved from not having to commute for an hour or two to and from an office every day allows you to spend more time having a leisurely lunch, cooking an ambitious dinner or getting your washing done so there’s one less thing to do on your day off.
Not having to share your space with colleagues also liberates you to work in the way that suits you best – whether that’s in your favourite onesie, whilst drumming along to Finnish death metal or sat on a cushion on the floor (the latter not recommended, of course, for ergonomic reasons). This is something many of our employees treasure and is a perk that might be tough to give up upon returning to the office.
Translators are often said to be a species unto their own – their job requires intense focus and concentration. It can be hard to guarantee the conditions that facilitate this in a noisy office environment, especially if that space is shared with non-translator colleagues. Working from home can mean fewer distractions and a more tranquil working environment, which is why many of our linguists prefer this working arrangement.
At the moment, health and wellbeing are at the top of everyone’s minds. We’re keeping a close eye on the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation and will ramp up our business continuity efforts as needed.
We believe we’re well placed to tackle the challenges that lie ahead and we encourage all our clients, employees and suppliers to follow government health guidance in their region to help minimise the spread of this disease and safeguard their own health.