The internet being one of the greatest inventions of modern times has changed the game for work as people know it. With employees able to work remotely and communicate through online platforms, businesses are reaping the various benefits of a virtual workplace: increased flexibility, cost savings, and access to a global talent pool.
But that’s not all— this shift has also paved the way for multilingualism and globalization to take centre stage. The introduction of different languages and cultures into the workplace culture has teams talking and collaborating on an entirely unprecedented and unseen scale. But to gain that competitive edge over the rapidly globalizing marketplace, organizations should start thinking about the potential upsides in turning their workforce virtual, as well as understand the challenges that might come with the change.
But in the current business landscape, embracing these trends might be the potential key to longevity and success.
What is a Virtual Workplace? How Does it Foster Multilingualism?
In the simplest terms, a virtual workplace is a situation where employees are not physically present in a traditional office setting. Instead, they work anywhere using digital tools and communication technologies. This kind of work arrangement is also called a “remote” or “distributed” workforce, and it has become increasingly common due to modern technology and changes in the types of work people can do.
Virtual workplaces bring together employees from different linguistic backgrounds
For companies, the choice of potential employees becomes limitless. Businesses are no longer constrained to hiring people who live in the same area, but can instead search for professionals from anywhere in the world, giving companies the ability to search for the cream of the crop without needing to cross any land or water borders.
This will result in a multicultural workforce as employees come together from different parts of the world, immersed in different cultures and speaking multiple languages. Employees are exposed to new languages and have the opportunity to learn and practice their language skills, promoting language learning and use in a professional setting. This diversity can lead to increased collaboration and creativity.
Technology: Facilitating communication and translation in virtual workplaces
Communication in a virtual workplace must be clear, whether it’s with colleagues or partners overseas. Technology then becomes the lifeline of virtual teams, connecting employees worldwide. It is understandable that some people might have misgivings about taking their work into their home life, especially when it comes to setting up the technology needed to make the job possible. However, there are tips and tricks available to mitigate that concern, and additionally, being prepared to do work anywhere can be another burden off one’s shoulders in the case of unprecedented events and emergencies.
The benefits of virtual workplace multilingualism for teams
Several experts cite numerous reasons why a virtual workplace worked for them and their teams.
Troy Portillo, Director of Operations of online tutoring platform Studypool says, “Some virtual workplaces can foster multilingualism in employees since there are fewer restrictions regarding where in the world employees might be from. As someone with a mostly remote workplace, the advantages have far outweighed any potential difficulties. For instance, employees report higher levels of job satisfaction, and are better able to tailor their work environment to their exact productivity needs.”
Brett Martin, co-founder of virtual office software company Kumospace, shares a similar sentiment.
“On a daily basis, I witness firsthand how multilingualism thrives in the virtual workplace. On my own remote team, I manage employees from North America, South America, and Europe, who speak a multitude of languages. Beyond the internal benefits of diversity and multiculturalism, the advantage of multilingualism made possible by a virtual workplace extends to our communication with clients across the globe. We always have someone ready to jump in and speak with a customer in Spanish, Portuguese, Madarin or even Croatian.”
Accelerate Globalization with a Virtual Workplace
Virtual work not only affects a company as a whole, but it has also transformed the worldwide economy and international business. Virtual workplaces, which allow employees to work remotely from anywhere in the world using digital tools and communication technologies, now play a significant role by facilitating the exchange of information, goods, and services across borders.
The benefits of virtual workplaces on the global economy and international business
There can be far-reaching benefits to having employees work virtually. My colleague, Ofer Tirosh who is the CEO and founder of translation company Tomedes, has admitted that a virtual workplace “was initially not a calculated decision,” but it has been “one of the best decisions [I’ve] made in the early stages of the company.”
He has experienced several upsides with his online workforce. “We definitely have more cost savings. We’ve reduced overhead costs such as rent, utilities, and maintenance, and those resources we’ve just allocated to business growth and employee development. We also have better access to a larger talent tool, and we can work with partners and clients anywhere in the world. Working virtually also helps us conduct operations any time of the day, which makes a lot of our clients very happy.”
Ofer also shares that within the company, the online set-up has led to increased productivity and innovation with employees, and “communication and collaboration isn’t as hard as one would expect, since everyone [is connected] through the internet anyway.”
Potential challenges of globalization and how virtual workplaces can address them
Naturally, there are several downsides to using a virtual workplace as a business model. Cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, time zone differences, feelings of isolation and lack of community, and technological challenges are just the tip of the iceberg.
However, as various resources note, there are also ways to get around these potential issues. Leo Ye Cubo, CEO and Co-founder at Cubo Online Virtual Office, shares his own personal ideas on how to make a virtual workplace more accommodating for employees:
Regular language practice: During video chats, virtual meetings, and written communication, employees have additional opportunities to hone their language abilities in a virtual workplace. This ongoing exposure to several tongues can strengthen language acquisition and boost fluency.
Tools for translation and interpretation: Tools for translation and interpretation are frequently used in virtual offices to help team members who speak various languages communicate. These tools can aid in bridging linguistic divides and guarantee that everyone can take part in conferences, conversations, and team initiatives.
Internal multilingual communications: Businesses can encourage multilingualism by providing internal communications in various languages, such as newsletters, training materials, and corporate updates. In addition to ensuring that all workers have access to crucial information, this encourages them to use and develop their language abilities.
A welcoming workplace culture: Virtual workplaces may establish an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable expressing their language skills and discussing their cultural backgrounds by fostering a company culture that values and supports multilingualism. Increased staff involvement, teamwork, and production may result from this.
In a nutshell, virtual workplaces can revolutionize the promotion of multilingualism and globalization, both inside the company and outside of it. They can help create a diverse, globally connected workforce by bringing employees from different linguistic backgrounds together and facilitating the exchange of ideas and cultural understanding. And the perks don’t stop there: virtual work also offers increased flexibility, cost savings, and greater efficiency for both employees and organizations.
Of course, there may be some snags and potential obstructions down this road, but the potential rewards make virtual work a must-consider for any business looking to stay ahead in the modern business landscape.
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Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a language translation company at the forefront of the industry consistently delivering high quality, and innovative translation and localization solutions to its clients. Under his visionary leadership, Ofer endeavored to build a mission-driven and collaborative virtual workplace composed of individuals with diverse and unique backgrounds from around the globe.