The Linguist

The Linguist 53,2

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Vol/53 No/2 2014 APRIL/MAY The Linguist 11 Could a shared office offer freelancers the best possible working environment, asks Dörte Schabsky W hile studying translation, I was already looking for the secret recipe for not getting lonely in my home office and for not getting distracted by housework and other chores – two problems many freelancers experience. I found the solution in my third trimester: coworking (without a hyphen) is the act of sharing a workplace with other professionals. Coworking spaces provide the setting; they offer desks, which can be used permanently or flexibly (eg, 24/7 or two days a week), as well as office infrastructure, such as internet access, printers, kitchen facilities and meeting rooms. They are hubs that enable freelancers, entrepreneurs and telecommuters to form communities. Using a coworking space is also reasonably cheap because users share the communal space and facilities. This may not be a selling point for translators who work from home and have almost no variable costs, but there are downsides to the home office. As studies by Spinuzzi, and Umberson and Montez have shown, 1 working from home can negatively affect productivity and general health. Coworking helps to maintain a healthy work- life balance and to reduce a sense of isolation. Moreover, coworking spaces bring professionals together from a variety of related and unrelated fileds. This can create new synergies, which may lead to job referrals, collaborations or even new business ideas. Using a coworking space therefore promised not only to solve all my home office-related problems, but also to provide additional value. Intrigued by the potential, I chose 'coworking' as my dissertation topic and spent three months trying to answer the question: 'Could coworking be beneficial for translators and what are their motivations (not) to do it?' Is coworking the answer? I asked 116 translators – based in Germany, the UK and the US – questions about themselves, their working habits and their attitude towards coworking. I supported these findings with a separate study, consisting of in-depth interviews with seven coworking translators, in order to determine whether they had experienced the assumed advantages and disadvantages. What I had imagined to be obstacle number one – the 'unnecessary costs' – proved to be a relatively minor hurdle, with 29 percent citing it as a deterrent. Fees vary depending on membership type and location, but tend to amount to 5-10 percent of the average translator's income (see table, p.12). The most cited argument against coworking is an attachment to the home office. This is understandable because no office can provide the same amenities as one's home. This is why almost all of the coworking translators I interviewed use a coworking space in addition to the home office. By offering part-time memberships, coworking spaces cater to the needs of each freelancer, enabling them to enjoy the advantages of both workplaces. Another deterrent is the extra effort involved in getting to a shared office. However, most coworking spaces are just 5-20 minutes from the professional's home and, to my mind, this is an advantage, as it gives me a reason to leave my flat. Some translators even use the short journey as exercise, benefitting their health. An additional concern is distractions and noise. This is, indeed, one of the weaknesses Spaces that work BRIGHT IDEAS: Dörte and Tim Schabsky at Work Inn

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