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HOME OFFICE: WHY AND WHY NOT

fot. Rafał Soliński

In our previous text, we told you what tricks we use to make remote work nice and smooth. While writing the article, we gave more thought to the subject. Is work from home a boon or bane? This question seems to stir a lot of controversy; especially now that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. As a result, many people have to move their work home, which is not the best solution for everyone.

We know we are the lucky ones as we aren’t forced to turn our life upside down – at least for the time being. We have worked from home for a couple of years now as it was our choice and our decision. We don’t mean to try and convince you that working from home is the best thing there is or that everybody should work this way – by no means. We don’t like truisms but this one must be repeated over and over again: every person has his or her own preferences, predilections, and predispositions, and they should follow them when making decisions related to their career.

However, in this text, we’d like to explain why we work from home at Translatorion and what kind of influence it has on us as translators. We’re also going to tell you why we decided to create our own home office and why we’re satisfied with it. The following musings are Martyna’s but Paweł says he agrees with most of them. ?

remote working from home office
This is what home office looks like according to stock photos.
WHY WE WORK FROM HOME

Not all translators work from home – but in fact, most do. A great majority of translators are freelancers or self-employed. We’ve actually mentioned this already in the article about the types of translators, and we don’t include interpreters here, as their situation is pretty different. There are some translators employed in various companies full-time, though – either in non-language-related enterprises or in big translation agencies, which means they can work in the company’s offices, although they can also choose working remotely.

We have three options, basically. We can work from home, in a room which functions as our office. We could also rent a separate office in a different building, e.g. in the city centre. Another possibility is renting a desk (or desks) in a co-working space we could share with other people running their own small businesses. The thing is we’ve always known we want to work from home and our professional life is arranged so as to achieve this.

The major advantage of home office is time saving. We don’t need to commute and that’s cool! Of course, getting to work needn’t be a problem – your office can be located in the vicinity of your apartment or you can simply enjoy taking a walk there and back. Still, we decided we prefer walking in other circumstances; moreover, we wanted to eliminate public transport and cars from our daily life to the greatest possible extent. So, our commuting takes place from the bedroom, via kitchen, with a stopover in the bathroom, to the home-made office in the living room.

Another great benefit of working from home is money saving. I guess there’s no need to elaborate on this – we don’t have to pay rent for two premises but for one only. We can also economise on food: we like cooking and we’re able to do it on a daily basis. Obviously, we need to make sure preparation of meals doesn’t distract us during our office hours, as this could disorganise all our schedules. Anyway, we eat out only at the weekends and we treat it as a special occasion to cherish.

Speaking of schedules: flexible working hours are very important for us. We’re not cut for a regular 9-5 job. We keep our rhythm but what we really value is the chance to adjust each working day to our needs and capabilities; we adapt our working hours to particular circumstances and requirements. In fact, this makes us more efficient – as we’re not stuck at the desk for the prescribed and rigid 8 hours, we can just take our time. If we complete a particular task quicker – we’re free. When we feel tired, we can finish sooner; but when we feel super energised and we get in the flow of translation, we can work much longer.

cat home office
One of the great benefits of working from home. Pic. Adrian Spuła

Among other blessings of this type of work is that we simply like being at home and we feel like doing a whole range of things there – we never get bored with it. We like the relaxed and natural atmosphere in our flat; we like peace and quiet; we like our calm and green neighbourhood. We can spend more time with our three cats; this way, they’re not left alone for hours and hours. What’s more, their constant presence is very soothing to us – let’s hope this works the other way round too. Besides, at home we have easy and direct access to all the necessary books, dictionaries, and other resources; we don’t have to move them anywhere and then try to find them. This may all sound a bit trivial, but they are really important details. They make our work easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. Our friendly and familiar surroundings are adapted to us and give us a special feeling of freedom.

WHY REMOTE WORK CAN BE PROBLEMATIC

Like with most things in life, remote work has its drawbacks – it’s not a perfect solution. While working from home, we experience a number of problems which sometimes make us feel like we want to run away somewhere – after all, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

In some way, these problems are a follow-up of the abovementioned positive sides. For instance – the flexibility. Your working hours can be so flexible that you just get lost in them and your working day lasts from dawn to dusk – although, if you count for how many hours you’ve actually done any work, you’ll be surprised. In such cases – especially when the home office users are a couple – it’s really difficult to firmly separate your private life from your professional affairs. That’s why it’s crucial to set the boundaries and establish some self-discipline. You need to be able to say to yourself: ‘It’s high time to be done with that’; instead of the tempting ‘Why don’t I translate another segment?’.

Another trap that is easy to get caught in is low morale and poor self-motivation. At home, nobody is going to tell you off for being late, nobody will give you a to-do list, nobody will monitor what you’re doing. Wait… is it really nobody? First of all, we two are lucky to have each other – we can support, motivate, and animate each other. Besides, we need to observe deadlines, which we always do. Hence, even if we’re late for work itself, we’re never late with the translations we submit.

That’s not all, though. Home can be distracting – there are so many things that your attention may wander to. There’s a pile of laundry waiting for your mercy; your pets demand petting; a new book by your favourite author has just been delivered; your partner (in life and in translation) simply needs to tell you something which is not quite related to work as such; while looking up some phrases, you’ve got absorbed in another Wikipedia entry which is not quite related to work as such; or you’ve just got trapped in scrolling on your social media… Well, let’s be honest, though – people working in regular offices do this one too, don’t they?

What’s more, we need to watch ourselves when we get too cosy – staying indoors forever is not good for anyone (well, yes, maybe nowadays it’s actually better than going out, but let’s hope this will change). It’s just physics – inertia happens to all of us. When we don’t need to run any errands, we’ve done our shopping, and everything we need is within arm’s reach, we might forget ourselves and yield to laziness. We need to be on our guard and realise when working hygge-style is getting unhyggienic.

translators work life
Translators having a walk in the open air

The final problem is connected with the previous one. Working from home can result in a sense of isolation. Luckily enough, we have each other but we do sometimes miss meeting other people. On the other hand, though, we don’t feel really lonely – we’re constantly in touch with our clients, we talk with our friends, call our family (which, by the way, can be distracting too). Thanks to technology, communicating with others is really made easy; clearly, this is not the same as seeing someone face to face, but better than nothing (especially in the times of COVID-19). Frankly speaking, translation is a task for introverts rather than extroverts. To do it, you need to feel well and comfortable in your own company and be on friendly terms with your thoughts. Apart from that, if you’re highly sensitive, you can find it hard to concentrate when you’re surrounded by other people or if you don’t feel at ease in your environment.

HOME SWEET HOME

I have some more general observations connected with what I’ve just written about our experience of working from home – actually, they are a result of years of reflecting on this issue over and over again and I’ve finally come to some satisfactory conclusions.

One of these conclusions is related to the division between professional and private life, which we’ve mentioned a couple times. Work-life balance is really important and we also strive to hold on to it. However, I have some doubt as to why work should be perceived as something opposed to life. In fact, I’ve never understood this. Work is an element of life, and an important element to that – it’s not life’s antithesis. People spend a third of their daily lives at work – excluding weekends and holidays. Why then treat it as something apart, separate, unimportant, done only to survive? I may be quite idealistic about this but I know I’m not able to perform work which does not make sense to me. This is why I invited work to my home – because one is part of the other. Now I don’t have to wonder if reading books in a foreign language is part of my work or simply my lifestyle.

There’s more to this: home is something that I closely associate with creation, with carrying out pleasant activities which require a lot of thinking and attention. It’s always been like this with me – by these pleasant, creative activities I mean, for example, writing, translating, or language learning. All of these are my work now – why should I stop doing them in my favourite, domesticated space?

Recently, I’ve noticed another thing – for me, work which is strictly intellectual, creative, or language-related requires being on my own and in my own, peaceful, tamed space. This is where it brings the greatest outcomes. Even though I’ve said that home can be distracting, all in all, home is the best place for me to focus and I can’t do it so well in other circumstances, for instance in an open-space office or in a café.

However, when it comes to learning from other people – I’m referring to conversation classes, weekend courses, university seminars and lectures, meetings with interesting people, or even working out – this works only live for me. That’s why, even though I am happy that so many things can be done online these days (e.g. numerous webinars on various topics, TEDx Talks, virtual meetings with writers, or online trainings), I prefer taking part in their offline equivalents, if possible.

***

How can we sum this all up? In moderation. Like with most public issues today, some people will praise working from home to the skies, others will disapprove of it altogether, whereas most of them will criticise and misunderstand each other’s opinions, claiming it’s only them who’s right and trying to persuade the other ones to change their mind.

Our goal was only to show how we feel about this: what pros and cons we see in home office from our perspective. We haven’t focused on more global and long-term possible consequences of this solution because we are not sure what they are. How does working from home affect interpersonal relationships? Will the existence of more remote workers result in less air pollution as people will commute less often? We’ve yet to find out.

All in all – working from home works best for us at Translatorion! Provided we take a walk in the forest every now and then. ?

Martyna

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