Tag: COVID-19


Remote Interpreters Are Critical in the Shift to Telehealth


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits were on the rise. A report by FAIR Health found telehealth claims increased by 8,336% nationally between April 2019 and April 2020, rising to 13% of all claims. With its effectiveness proven, there will likely be a long-term shift to virtual healthcare, along with the need to bridge the communication gap for limited English proficient (LEP) patients. This is one of many ways that current events are changing the localization industry — a topic discussed in MultiLingual’s latest issue, just released today.

Throughout the past several months, many hospitals and healthcare systems have scrambled to support their LEP patients remotely. With more than 350 languages spoken across the US, and with 20% of the US population speaking a language other than English at home, these already-disenfranchised communities are finding themselves disproportionately affected by this transition.

Hospitals and healthcare systems are using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Webex for virtual care delivery, but these systems were not specifically designed to easily add skilled medical interpreters into a session. And questions surrounding security and confidentiality have caused concern and led many healthcare providers to seek out interpreting services and platforms that reduce the risks. Telemedicine-specific platforms like American Well, Teladoc and Doxy.me have little to no language support built in for LEP patients, despite federal laws that require federally-funded healthcare entities to provide language access services.

While the use of these platforms has increased since the pandemic, LEP patients have largely been left out of these virtual encounters. Language service companies that support healthcare systems nationwide with remote interpreting services, are well-positioned for this challenge.

It is immensely important for patients to receive the care they need in their primary language. In the midst of a global health crisis, when in-person visits aren’t always safe or viable, the right technology and an experienced interpreter who has command of a wide range of medical terminology are key to ensuring a successful telehealth session.

Secure, HIPAA-compliant interpreter-assisted telehealth solutions, such as three-way video remote interpreting (VRI) call features, ensure providers can quickly connect to a remote LEP patient with an interpreter already on the line — offering the advantages of face-to-face communication from a safe distance. It’s an effective way for providers to stay connected to their LEP patients and limit exposure to illnesses.

Language integration in telehealth is becoming increasingly critical, as more and more patients demand virtual care solutions to meet their healthcare needs. Organizations are starting to incorporate interpreting services at the point of care, realizing that, regardless of what platform is used, it needs to be accessible to all patients with skilled medical interpreting thoughtfully integrated.


Kristin Quinlan is CEO of Certified Languages International (CLI), a language company offering remote interpreting services in more than 230 languages. Quinlan’s commitment to the language industry earned her a position on the Association of Language Companies (ALC)’s Leadership Council and the board of directors of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS).


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Paper Expands Multilingual Support to Online Services

Language in Business

The educational support system Paper emphasizes language access as among its primary goals to ensure a more equitable education for students across North America.

The educational support system company Paper is expanding unlimited tutoring support in English, Spanish, French, and Mandarin. Multilingual tutors are available across several subjects, including Math, Science, History, and English, so that students can get help in their native tongue. Founded in 2014, Paper is an educational support system providing students with online support and teachers with real-time feedback and intervention tools.

Paper partners with districts across North America to close the achievement gap and support educational equity. With the enhanced features on Paper’s platform, students will be able to pre-set their language preferences. By doing so, Paper automatically pairs students with tutors that can help them in their preferred language. Providing scholastic assistance in preferred languages has many crossovers for the localization industry – not least translation and interpretation.

“It is required we increase and improve services,” said Blaise DiGoralmo, chief academic officer of Carmel Unified School District, in California, in a recent board meeting discussing the adoption of Paper to support the district’s English as second language (ESL) students.

Making up a diverse group of nearly five million K-12 students in the US, ESL students face the challenge of acquiring a new language while learning core academic subjects. With the ongoing impact of the pandemic, educators in the US likewise have had to radically adjust to meet student needs in a remote setting, particularly when many of those students come from non-English backgrounds. Many educators fear disproportionalities in pandemic-induced learning losses are exacerbating existing achievement gaps between ESL students and non-ESL students.

“The nice thing is you can get tutoring in both English and Spanish, which is really valuable if you have a Spanish-speaking parent. The Spanish-speaking parent can go in with the kid when they’re at home; they can ask questions in Spanish, that parent can help them in Spanish even if the kid’s doing this stuff in English. They can have that interaction, so it does provide access for those parents as well to the tutors with their child,” added DiGoralmo.

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TFON Translating Health Info for Indigenous Languages


Addressing exclusion of languages in vital health materials, Translations 4 Our Nations (TFON) has translated COVID-19 resources into over 40 Indigenous languages.

As communities across the globe reckon with linguistic exclusion from national government health protocols during the pandemic, one group has formed to mitigate the devastation many have faced due to lack of timely, accessible information regarding COVID-19. Formed by a group of medical and public health students, Translations 4 Our Nations (TFON) has created a global initiative in translating COVID-19 resources into more than 40 Indigenous languages from over 30 countries. Community- and Indigenous-led, the initiative facilitates accessible distribution of health information, and organizers eventually plan to launch a free website.

Reviewed by Harvard doctors, Harvard medical students, and Indigenous youth leaders from the UN Global Indigenous Youth Caucus, the translated materials aim to provide the Indigenous community with important information about health safety and COVID-19 in their native languages.

“I founded this initiative because I saw how my own Indigenous communities struggled with lack of COVID-19 information that was in their language or culturally relevant to their contexts,” said Victor Anthony Lopez-Carmen, founder of TFON and second-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. “The idea was to work directly with Indigenous community members in the spirit of partnership, and make sure the benefits went back to them and their communities.”

During the early stages of the pandemic, the United Nations’ Department of Economics and Social Affairs reported a complete lack of “relevant information about infectious diseases and preventive measures” in Indigenous languages internationally.

For co-founders Thilaxcy Yohathasan and Sterling Stutz, both York alumnae and Master of Public Health in Indigenous Health candidates at the University of Toronto, this initiative resonated with them personally, as they are both settlers on Indigenous lands.

“Many Indigenous scholars have written about the possibility for COVID-19 to exacerbate existing health disparities. This project is international in scope and allows myself, as a student living and working in Toronto, to connect with and build relationships with Indigenous peoples around the globe,” Stutz says.

Since April, TFON has gathered a team of over 120 Indigenous translators from over 30 countries to help make necessary and important information accessible during the pandemic. According to Yohathasan, this is the most diverse group of Indigenous translators ever to unite.

The initiative has provided several documents outlining important COVID-19 related information, including emergency signs, information for Indigenous children, general information for Indigenous elders, and recommendations for traveling to cities and populated areas. The team is also currently working on translating a “Pandemic and Nutrition” document.

TFON has translated the materials into languages including Greenlandic, Hawaiin, Yaqui, and Swahili to Isixhosa, Maya K’iche’, Tok Pisin, and Zambian sign language, to name a few.

The translated materials offer many communities hope, but not without risks. With constantly shifting information, TFON will face pressure to stay up-to-date with new discoveries and to transmit the information to translators, a task which can prove difficult.

“We speak over 70 different languages from coast to coast, many of our communities are only accessible by plane and the majority overall are remote which makes access to technology and connecting to resources a huge challenge,” said Rachelle Naomi Beswick, treasurer and acting co-president for Aboriginal Students’ Association at York.

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Welsh Language Re-included in Council during Pandemic

Multimedia Translation

After facing criticism, the city council in Denbighshire, Wales will now allow Zoom in council meetings to better serve Welsh language speakers with simultaneous translation in meetings.

After failing to provide Welsh interpretation services for meetings throughout the pandemic, a city council in Wales has set plans to reincorporate Welsh translation into future meetings. At the onset of the pandemic, an issue arose around security issues with Zoom, driving the council to use a system that does not support simultaneous translation for meetings. However, the exclusion of Welsh language services drew criticism.

Cllr Mabon ap Gwynfor, chair of the Welsh Language Steering committee on Denbighshire council, commented in a letter to fellow members that language is not a “nicety that could be put aside.” He acknowledged in the letter the unprecedented nature of the pandemic but added that the situation proved Welsh was “not a key consideration” for the council.

“We’ve not had any Welsh translation in any of our meetings since lockdown,” he said. “Other councils have held meetings with translation for many months because, when they looked at the technology and planned for meetings, it was an essential requirement.”

A Denbighshire council spokesman said that due to concerns about security, the meetings had used the in-house video conferencing platform, which lacks the capacity to provide Welsh translation. However, with the many security improvements on Zoom, along with the app’s simultaneous translation capabilities, the council would employ Zoom for all future council meetings.

“The council is integrating Zoom with its existing council chamber conferencing system, which includes simultaneous interpretation and webcasting,” the spokesman said. “Denbighshire’s solution will provide a permanent bilingual, hybrid meeting system that will meet the Welsh Government’s expected legislative changes next year. It is anticipated that the hybrid meetings installation will have been completed in early October and subject to satisfactory testing may be available for conducting bilingual public meetings later in the month.”

Hybrid meetings, where some members attend via video conferencing software and others in person in the council chamber, are currently only legal due to emergency legislation brought in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many councils are now preparing for a permanent change in legislation next year, which would see local authorities able to hold hybrid gatherings. Some councils believe the move will boost attendance at meetings and increase engagement with the public.

“It seems that here in Denbighshire it was felt that it was either not a consideration when planning for meetings or was deemed nonessential,” said Cllr ap Gwynfor, adding that he is “far more comfortable” expressing himself in Welsh, which is also the first language of his wife and four children too. He added, “It’s the language I dream in, I think in, and live my life through. It’s not acceptable that our language has been dismissed.”

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Vaccine Language Rules in EU May Soften during COVID

Language in the News

Fearing EU language-access requirements may slow vaccine development, drugmakers call on officials to soften rules. Some worry a rule change could hurt the effectiveness of a vaccine.

As drugmakers race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, lawmakers in the European Union face calls to loosen rules that require medicines sold in the bloc to include full documentation in 24 separate languages. Those calling for the exception fear that the current the current rules could slow the deployment of hundreds of millions of vaccines.

“We need an early agreement from EU authorities on the language to be used on the packs and labels for COVID-19 vaccines,” said Michel Stoffel, head of regulatory affairs at Vaccines Europe, which represents big vaccine makers including GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca.

Although the criticism undermines calls worldwide for broader language access to COVID-19 information, the EU has considered temporarily softening language requirements for vaccines since June. In lieu of full inclusion on multilingual labels, an EU official said Brussels has considered alternatives, like printing a limited set of languages on the labels and publishing remaining versions online.

However, concerns have arisen that labels may not have enough space to include more than two versions. Furthermore, consumer groups have raised the warning that leaving any languages off packaging could have a negative impact on patients, especially those less computer literate.

“The urgency of getting a vaccine should not be an excuse for companies to cut corners on consumer protection,” said Monique Goyens, the head of BEUC, which represents major European consumer organizations. “Safety includes instructions of use in the user’s language and on paper about possible side effects of vaccines. That’s why we believe that online information can be an additional tool, but should never be the sole option.”

The dilemma raises questions about how to balance expedience with access during the pandemic, specifically relating to how best to disseminate life-saving information in an effective, inclusive way. The news comes after reports that the European Commission announced it would provide 400 million euros to an initiative led by the World Health Organization to buy COVID-19 vaccines.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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Anuvadak Platform Translates India’s MyGov COVID Site

AI, Localization

The expansion of COVID-19 information now to include 10 of India’s 22 official languages will ensure millions of Indian internet users access to vital information. Reverie Language Technologies hopes this is just the beginning for Anuvadak, its website localization AI.

In the effort boost access to the internet among India’s multitude of languages, Reverie Language Technologies has leveraged its machine translation AI Anuvadak to automatically publish the MyGov COVID-19 page in ten Indian languages.

Launched as a platform to publish websites in Indian languages, Anuvadak accelerates the process of localizing content to better serve the needs of 536 million Indian-language internet users. Along with translating language using neural machine translation, the platform can also automatically update websites, manage workflows, and optimize SEO search results using built-in web analytics.

“It is a platform that accelerates the process of creating, launching, and optimizing your website in multiple languages,” said Reverie Language Technologies CEO and Co-founder Arvind Pani in a recent interview. “The platform enables you to connect with customers in their language with faster go-to-market and effortless content management. Anuvadak can scale down the website localization time by 40% and can save as much as 60% of the localization and content management costs.”

After winning the QPrize in 2011, Reverie Language Technologies became the first company to offer language computing solutions for all 22 official Indian languages. However, despite India’s claim to the world’s second-largest English-speaking population, only around 10% of the Indian population speak English. Accordingly, the vast number of internet resources serve a minority of Indian internet users.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, access to information one’s native language is still vital globally, and many around the world are calling for efforts to deliver information in a timely manner. The increased language capacity on India’s MyGov website will play a major role in disseminating life-saving information as epidemiologists gather new information about the virus. Furthermore, an internet with broader localization strategies will ensure Indian internet-users with more equal access to opportunities in business, education, and cultural exchange.

“We are focused on building products to address all user engagement aspects, be it input, search, voice, translation, or localization,” said Pani. “We plan to empower more number of the rapidly rising Indian-language users with our language by enabling large businesses and governments to connect with more people in regional languages.”

Although a great effort is still needed to deliver access to information through the internet and technology to India’s diverse language speakers, Anuvadak will contribute to the broader effort to serve Indian internet users.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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Victorian Government Passes $14 million Multicultural Support Bill

Language in the News

After mistakes in vital COVID messaging from the government, Victoria, Australia, government officials hope the new funding will bring relief to communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Some say the funding does not go far enough.

In response to the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in Victoria, Australia, the Victorian government has announced it will spend $14.3 million Australian dollars to increase support for multicultural and linguistically diverse communities. The announcement follows widespread complaints about errors uncovered in the translations of vital health messages over the past months.

The new funding will direct $6.9 million to organizations that work directly with communities to provide culturally specific relief, $2 million to translation and interpreter services, and $5.5 million to expand the distribution of those translations.

Along with the funding, the Victorian government also plans to provide additional cultural training for contact tracers, and to establish a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities Taskforce, which will include representatives from the Victorian Multicultural Commission and other departments.

“To get on top of this pandemic, it’s vital that we all work together,” Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence said in a statement. “That includes looking after multicultural and multifaith Victorians that face unique challenges, like language barriers or access to services.”

One of the complaints cited a message from the Victorian government, which used two different languages to communicate COVID-19 information. The messaging was published with the body of the text in Farsi and the government’s social distancing slogan in Arabic. Some Arabic speakers have even complained that government warning signs in Arabic are simply nonsensical.

Adding to the messaging gaffs, the Victorian government has struggled to provide culturally specific relief packages. “Some of the food packages have been filled with items that did not meet cultural food tastes, and so they went out to the shops get their own food, possibly spreading the virus,” general manager of IndianCare Tina Guido told SBS News.

The absence of culturally relevant relief materials has led community members to seek out necessities themselves, thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Guido, among other advocates for Australia’s multicultural and multifaith communities, have suggested the Victorian government direct funds to community organizers and leaders rather than improperly consulting the communities.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said that $1 million had already been spent on translations and translators would check material once it was posted online to avoid future errors. However, many in the government believe that even the recent funding announcement does not go far enough, calling for $500 million in multicultural communication grants.

Migration Council Australia CEO Carla Wilshere said it is crucial translations are accurate. “One of the really big concerns around having incorrect translations is it erodes the authority of the information,” she said.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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Multilingual Communities in AU Need Access to Health Info


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire recently for how his administration has handled Australia’s efforts to translate COVID-19 messages and properly notify the country’s multilingual communities.

The criticism follows a new wave of COVID-19 cases that occurred in central Melbourne, where 3,000 residents among nine public housing high rise towers have been placed under a hard quarantine.

Responding to the news of the spike in cases, Australian Parliamentary member Andrew Giles tweeted, “When it comes to public health information, we can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. In a multicultural society, we have to communicate effectively to the diversity of our communities — and we have to empower CALD communities when it comes to getting the right messages out.”

CALD refers to Australia’s “Culturally and linguistically diverse populations,” which it defines as people “who were born overseas, have a parent who was born overseas or speaks a variety of languages.”

While the Australian Department of Health’s website has dedicated a portion of its website to provide language resources and posted periodical updates since May, it is not clear how accessible the predominantly English website has been to people who speak English as a foreign language. Many issues can arise in the language localization process, including the target reader completely missing out on the information.

Giles, along with other members of parliament, are calling on the prime minister to address the system’s lack of resources for its multilingual communities by funding a $500,000 measure that will go toward resources to translate and distribute “COVID-19 newsletters, publications, signage, websites, advertisements, brochures, video, radio, and public service announcements from existing official information services,” as well as prove $5,000 to eligible community leaders to engage with their communities and spread the latest information.

With a population in Victoria alone of approximately 1.5 million speakers of languages other than English, 17% of whom have a low proficiency in English, the state, its capital of Melbourne, and the larger Australian government have a significant task ahead of them to reach its citizens and quell the recent spread of the virus.

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The COVID-19 lessons businesses must learn

Localization Culture

The spread of COVID-19 has significantly changed how we do business — and “we” does not exclude any single industry. France’s national holiday, Bastille Day, was celebrated this July 14 not with the usual parade, but with an 8 billion euro raise for health care workers. Delta airlines, on their part, just reported a staggering 88% loss in sales compared to the previous year for the second quarter of 2020.

Regardless of their preparedness to deal with crises, this pandemic has taught businesses (and nations) some lessons that they should consider before another similar wave kicks in. Namely, to adjust or develop a crisis management plan that should highlight risks, be they financial, human or environmental, and outline a plan for managing and controlling them.

We have witnessed that businesses that were able to switch their operations to remote work did manage to continue their operations successfully. So review your supply chain. Businesses must create alternative plans for their supply chains. As we have seen, most businesses lost their supply of products due to restrictions of flights and closure of borders.
Digitalization is a must. In lockdown, the only way to communicate and continue our everyday work was through digital tools that allowed smooth communication between teams. Apart from that, many activities were able to be conducted by the simple use of digital tools that connected us even though quarantine.

In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed how we do business, and not a single industry has been spared. Businesses are left with no other option but to respond with the same rapid speed to accommodate these unplanned transformations. Even now, in most places around the world, there is a need to practice social distancing yet stay connected with stakeholders. Amidst all these changes, however, there are always lessons that businesses can learn from this pandemic. Here are a few of them.

The need to have a flexible crisis management plan

If there is one thing that businesses must learn from the COVID-19 crisis, it is the need to have crisis and business continuity plans in place at all times. Another thing to note is that this plan should not just include expected risks such as financial or environmental, it should go deeper and include the unexpected. The plan should be flexible enough to accommodate the changes forced down on businesses by any crisis. The rapidity at which the pandemic hit the world proved a resilience test to organizations, and only the ones who had an elaborate and flexible crisis management plan will ultimately survive.

Businesses should be proactive in responding to the crisis

Though the pandemic has affected the whole world, there are areas that are less impacted than others. In terms of large geographic areas, the difference between the worst hit and the mildly hit is that the latter were proactive and responded faster. They foresaw the extent of the damage the crisis would cause and put in place measures to avert the situation. For instance, areas that implemented lockdowns, started wearing masks and prepared their healthcare systems early enough (by contact tracing and data sharing, for example) are doing well in this crisis. In addition to having a crisis management plan in place, there is need for businesses to have an improved sensory perception system. It is important to be positioned well to sense danger, think and respond rapidly in order to survive a crisis.

Remote working can be a blessing to businesses

As the COVID-19 crisis slowly found its way around the world, so did the reality of the need to work from home. Social distancing meant sending a big chunk of the workforce home, highlighting the need to support them effectively. The good thing is that businesses now know that remote working can be an efficient mode of working, especially because it can drastically reduce office operating expenses. Businesses must now acknowledge that this is a good system and work towards leveraging all benefits that come with it. One, for example, is the ability to have a wider pool to fish the best talents to include in their workforce.

Businesses must carefully review the supply chain

As governments tried to alleviate the spread of the virus, locking down some regions became inevitable. Travel restrictions to and from the worst-hit areas had to be implemented rapidly. That meant that businesses whose main suppliers were from those regions could not get the supplies they needed. Most had to deal with declining inventory levels and reduced manufacturing capabilities. They had to think of alternative supply sources, which is a slow and expensive process. Businesses must learn the need to employ agility in improving supply chain management in order to prevent disruption in production during a crisis.

The importance of digitalization

With governments requiring businesses to operate with fewer people as possible on-site, businesses were forced to transfer most operations to remote locations — people’s homes. This had to be done with minimum disruption to operations as possible. What it meant to businesses is that any operation that was manual or entirely on-premise was now inaccessible and could not continue. Businesses can now not deny the need to have every operation digitized. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for businesses to create a secure an agile digital system.





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Christian A. Kruse is a marketing and business expansion expert for Asian markets. Based in China, he has helped many companies expand in China, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, and elsewhere. He has experience working in a range of industries and providing technical support in topics such as business growth, market expansion, and product development. Currently, he is also serving as an expert at GlobalizationPedia and provides technical advice for its China EOR solutions targeting US-based international businesses.


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Five tips for running a localization business in China through COVID-19

Localization Culture

Going through a financial crisis while your country is on lockdown is an experience we will most likely never forget. But even in this time of uncertainty, it could be an experience that will make your team stronger — perhaps by stimulating your business to embrace the available technology and practice crisis consciousness. Our company survived the COVID-19 crisis in China, and we took steps to ensure the business has not suffered any financial losses.

We run a small-size localization agency in Shanghai, China. We have 15 full-time employees and the company is three years old. As a service provider, we were expecting that the lockdown, which started at the beginning of February and lasted till mid-March, to have a tremendous effect on the business, and we were ready for the worst. However, it turns out our expectations were overly pessimistic. By the end of the lockdown, we managed to survive. And we would like to share how we did it, for the companies who are currently going through the same situation.

China’s winter business schedule is always planned around the Chinese New Year, which means many businesses like ours typically have very low business activity for at least two weeks during this period. This year the holidays started on January 24, but the lockdown happened immediately after that, so all activities and office work had already been suspended. Therefore, during this period, we lost all our event interpreting business, and the translation activity of clients that were not operating at all, representing the largest chunk of our business.

However, this did not mean that the crisis had pushed us into a corner. We simply had to become more creative and adaptable in order to survive the weeks that followed. Here are the five most important lessons I have learned from this unusual situation.

1. Assure the safety of your employees

Expectation: the team will lose touch and become distant and difficult to manage
Reality: the team became more connected

Making sure your team is safe is priority number one. Any business should always center around its people. We suspended all employee travel until the city returned back to normal, and in fact, some employees are still working from home to this day, even though most companies have been back to business for a while now.

I could not imagine for a second what could have happened to our business if one of my teammates became infected. This would not have only affected our office, but the entire building.

It was also a good opportunity for our team managers to implement their soft skills and show what kind of leaders they are. Showing people that the company is not only a place of work, but also a team that cares about one another, and supports its families is crucial during this time.

As a result, our employees developed a stronger bond with one another, and team spirit actually increased.

2. Business continuity and home office

Expectation: the team will become disorganized and distracted.
Reality: the team became more efficient and productive.

For managers, it is always worrisome to implement something very new to the team that requires new working habits to be formed. So we were skeptical when we introduced home working for all members of the team. But this was not a time for hesitation — assuring business continuity is essential for any company, as if there is no production, there is simply no company. It didn’t take much time to set up this new way of working, but ensuring that everyone stuck to it was a little more challenging. Of course this meant more (online) meetings, more calls, more time spent talking with each employee and so on, but when all the mini-trainings and setup was done, we realized that working from home has a lot to offer. No time wasted in traffic, limited social interaction and in turn fewer distractions meant that tasks were completed more quickly while maintaining the same level of attention.

Of course, for families with children, it was a more challenging time, but we noticed that some members with limited free time dealt with tasks faster and more efficiently.  Also, keeping one’s mind busy can save people from being overwhelmed by mass hysteria and panic.

Home office tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom were implemented with great success, and in addition to project management tools such as Asana that had long been in place. But in general, we believe that home working could play an important role in the future for many types of companies, especially in the digital and service industry.

3. New ways of business development

Expectation: the company will be stuck with one appropriate product or service.
Reality: there are many ways to develop new business.

The third lesson that we learned is how to think outside the box when it comes to new ways of finding business. For us it meant concentrating on social media communication (at a time when others were heavily using social media) to our advantage.

I have also realized that many people were in need of urgent legal document translation and medical related translation. We had shortlisted a few services that could be useful to people at this time and concentrated on those. Attending webinars and spending time in online group discussions have also brought us business prospects. Even sponsoring online events in the ways we can (providing video subtitling or remote interpreting) benefited both the local community and our business.

Some of our clients used the manufacturing slowdown to prepare for the upcoming seasons by taking care of their documentation, marketing materials and website translations, which also brought us business.

We have observed even more creative new business approaches from our community: live fitness classes, online education of children, webinars on all types of topics, delivery-only or take-out-only restaurants, adaptation of traditional businesses to e-commerce. Companies spent time in building relationships with influencers for upcoming seasons, with an emphasis on digital marketing in general.

It is important to remember that the lockdown will not last forever. Here in Shanghai, and for most cities in China, it lasted 6-7 weeks. During lockdown, I strongly recommend using all resources available to them to turn this challenging situation into an opportunity, whether it be learning a new way of presenting information or testing different ways of operating.

4. Self-education and online connection with the community

Expectation: I could end up wasting time.
Reality: I ended up learning more about new ways of how businesses can operate, how the current crisis situation has developed, and government incentives.

Attending these endless webinars and niche lectures might seem like being exposed to neverending sales pitches, which is partly true, as every organizer of a webinar or education session has their own goal in mind. But we found there was much more to these events.

Having access to online communities where one can share experiences, new information and ideas is a great tool to use. One learns that many people are experiencing the same issues, which can be reassuring. And keeping up and learning from niche professionals is never a waste of time. We ended up joining webinars on legal topics, crisis entrepreneurship, social media marketing, financial investments and many more interesting topics we always wanted to learn about, but thought we were too busy for.

Learning new skills is always a great investment in oneself, as one never knows when these skills might come in useful. For me personally, I found out that anyone can make time for self-education once the workflow is set in an efficient manner,

5. Handling finances

Expectation: the company will not survive if we do not lay off most of the staff
Reality: the company might break even and pay full salaries if you prioritize your expenses

We were mostly stressed about not being able to make it through the crisis, as well as not being able to keep the entire team on the payroll.

We believe that every SME needs a small “security fund” to ensure that the company can continue for at least two months of non-operation. But even if that’s not possible, cash flow management essentials will play a great role in times like these.

Limiting non-essential expenses will mean taking more work and responsibility in-house. Pay your people first, even if it means not paying yourself, and lead by example. For larger companies this could mean negotiating and dealing with employees by creating new ways of incentives, and temporarily postponing bonuses.

Some companies were forced to ask people to take this time as annual leave, take a pay cut, or implement more drastic measures, which thankfully we were not forced to do.

Making financial priorities is important at this time, even hard ones such as postponing vendor pay-outs, as well as being ready to receive late payments from your clients.

For us, the information on government incentives came two weeks before the lockdown was over, and it meant significant relief on social security payments as well as two months of free rent for offices that occupied government owed property. So, it is normal for government to take time and decide on how it can support businesses. We hope every government will provide maximum support to businesses and assure the economy pushes though this hard time.

Looking ahead

Staying calm is essential in times of crisis. It brings confidence to those people around you and allows them to focus on the things that can be done. Remember, whatever stage of lockdown your country is in, it will not last forever, and for many businesses this time can and should be spent intelligently. It is therefore in your best interests to concentrate on the things you can do to improve the situation, instead of spending all your time idly worrying about the things you cannot control at this time.

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Ekaterina Chernavina is marketing director of HI-COM Translation, and a China-specific marketing specialist and advisor.


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