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Working from home, once the exclusive province of a few lonely souls, has recently been sampled by large swathes of the population! What can you do to make your new office work for you? We’ve gathered together some top tips from our freelancers – seasoned work from home professionals.

Where to work

It doesn’t matter where you work, some favour the kitchen table while others prefer the attic, cubbyhole, or even the garden shed… wherever you decide to work, peace and quiet (that elusive thing) can really help get the creative juices flowing and increase production.   

“My top tip, which wouldn’t suit everyone, is to get up really early and work when no-one else is around and the house is lovely and quiet.  You get lots done and a terrific sense of achievement when you finish, and you can feel smug about doing so much before breakfast!”

Kathy

Comfortable and safe working

It’s important to make sure you’re sitting comfortably with your screen and keyboard at the correct height to work ergonomically. You don’t necessarily need expensive equipment – you could balance your laptop on some books, use a wireless keyboard and mouse and sit on a yoga ball at the kitchen table… or you can get a standing desk, some of which are relatively inexpensive and sit on your table bringing your laptop up to the correct working height. There’s the conventional desk and desk chair… there are many options.

“Take lots of breaks away from screen and make sure you get out for a walk at least once a day… it also helps not to have a toddler (haha)!”

Anna

“When you’re suffering from back pain, it really helps to get up and move around frequently and this is also good practice to protect yourself from the harms of a sedentary job. Housework can be a major distaction, but you can turn it to your advantage and use the housework as exercise! Try getting up from your desk every 30 minutes or so to do 5 minutes housework. Empty the dishwasher one time, load the washing machine the next. Try to find time to  take a proper lunch break and use some of that break in your schedule to go for a 20 minute brisk walk.”

Siân

Data security

You’ll need safe storage for your documents. A lockable filing cabinet, or padlock and chain on the cupboard door, anything to keep tiny prying hands away from your work. It’s also a must for GDPR compliance, all personal and sensitive data needs to be kept securely. Make sure that your computer – and other devices on which you perhaps collect email or store files – are all password protected. If anyone else uses your devices, set up a separate user account for them. 

Work/life balance 

Trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance is a bit of a tightrope. It’s worth trying to ringfence work time, resist the urge to check emails and run off quick tasks outside of ‘office hours’. Take time out for lunch and take regular breaks.

“Protect both your work time and your leisure time in equal measures, try not to let one bleed into the other. Be disciplined with yourself and firm with others. You know the type, “Oh go on, what difference will meeting me for a 30-minute coffee make?” “You can’t work without a break.” “Just work an extra 30 minutes this evening to make up for it.” etc, etc, etc! And, equally, try not to let work seep into your free time unless absolutely necessary (unfortunately, sometimes it is)! This also requires self-discipline but reaps its own rewards in terms of productivity.”

Sophie

Working with children, without childcare…

Many of our team have young children in tow. How did we cope, working from home without childcare, whilst simultaneously home schooling? Dare we say TV, iPad, sweets… it’s a recipe for insanity! I’ve been working in small blocks of time and taking regular breaks to play, home school, feed them some ‘real’ food. But perhaps we should all just take Libby’s advice:

“DON’T DO IT!!!”

Libby

How many hours do you work a week, and how many of those hours are spent on administrative tasks? How many hours do you spend looking up solutions and fixes on the internet and how many hours do you use trying to implement them yourself to save money? How long does it take to make sure all your customers are paying you and your suppliers are paid?

In 2017, IT outsourcing in the UK grew by 20% with 35% of those businesses expected to increase their outsourcing activity further in 2019. Whilst the most recent statistics aren’t yet available, there has been an increase in the number of companies offering an outsourced service, showing a growth in this area of the market as demand increases and businesses are realising they need to work smarter.

Streamlining Business Process

Your main focus should be on growth and profitability. Whilst establishing your place in your industry, you simultaneously need to keep an eye on employees, systems, administration and communication, accounts and finance – all whilst trying to make sure your core business runs as smoothly as possible.

How much time do you actually have left at the end of the day to make sure your business thrives? Have you considered what your time is actually worth? Is using that money to chase unpaid invoices from clients cost effective? Your time is valuable and you will end up in a perpetual cycle of trying to stay afloat without being able to move forward, thinking that you are saving yourself money.

Outsourcing is a smart move that gives you more time to look at the overall output rather than trying to generate it. You can then use these data to make informed decisions for business development, how to increase output, revenue and effectively grow.

Utilising Experience

Running a business is hard, but to keep it running is even harder. It is neither practical nor possible to understand the full workings of each aspect of the business. It takes years of training and hands on experience to gain such skills and handing this to someone with experience isn’t giving up control, it’s working smart.

Outsourcing to an experienced, qualified business removes administrative, training and process issues with problems passed back to be rectified at their time and cost. Any company you engage will have a contractual responsibility to ensure that your business needs are met and let you focus on the bigger picture.

 

Cost, Risk and HR

Doing work yourself may mean you’re not paying someone else or buying software, but it’s difficult to quantify the cost in terms of your time being spent on smaller tasks to the detriment of other areas of your business. You could be adding an additional 20 hours to your working week with the justification that you’re saving money which may be true in principle, but could those hours be better utilised? Costs aren’t just financial, they’re efficient use of time, physical, mental and social and should all be factored in.

Employees are expensive. Even at minimum wage you may have to factor in agency fees, National Insurance contributions, pension contributions, employers’ liability insurance, training, re-training, cover during annual leave / maternity / sickness, and you have to pay employees each month regardless of how the business performs.

Outsourcing mitigates all this and reduces associated risk. It allows flexibility during high and low workload phases (particularly useful for start-ups and small businesses) to control the costs where needed. There are no HR issues around hiring and firing people and the other employment law red tape to navigate.

What Can Be Outsourced?

  • IT – With ever changing systems, services and cyber security can you afford the time and financial investment in learning them all and keeping up to date with them?
  • Accountancy – This can range from generating customer invoices and supplier payments to VAT calculations.
  • HR – Is there need to have someone manage all your staffing affairs? Do you have many staff issues?!
  • PA / Admin – Answering phone calls, managing your diary, writing you letter and emails and transcribing dictations, translation and subtitling services.
  • Payroll – This may not suit everyone, depending on size of business but it can be a huge time and cost saving exercise…
  • Customer Support – Depending on your service, can your queries be dealt with by a third party?
  • Marketing – Utilise their experience and create a marketing programme that suits you and your business.


What Can Transcribe This Do for You?

  • Audio transcription in English and Welsh
  • Welsh-English, English-Welsh translation
  • Subtitling
  • Proofreading and copy editing

At Transcribe This we are specialists in providing a professional audio transcription service, primarily in English and Welsh (other languages are available). We ensure that your dictated work is dealt with quickly and professionally.

We undertake all aspects of outsourced transcription work to the research, medical, legal, media, financial, health and government sectors to name a few. As well as audio transcription we offer translation and captioning services. Contact us to discuss how we can help you save valuable time.

As most of us adjust to home working, we can turn to technology to keep connected. If you’re thinking of conducting telephone interviews, here’s a quick guide on how to go about capturing good audio.

 

GDPR considerations

There are many approaches to recording telephone audio. GDPR compliance needs to be considered. As with recording a face to face interview, you’ll need to obtain consent to the conversation being recorded.

The audio and/or video should be recorded to a location where you have complete control of the data, so this rules out most cloud based services. With cloud based services, it’s often impossible to determine where your data will be stored, geographically speaking. If you can determine where the data will be stored – is the country where the servers are located deemed to have adequate data protection laws in place according to the Information Commissioner’s Office? Is the data encrypted for upload, download and storage? Is access to the data password protected? Do you have control over the complete and secure deletion of the data from the server? We would favour recording to a local disk because there are fewer variables at play…

Recording calls on a mobile phone

Neither iOS nor Android devices have native apps that will record your calls on the device’s local storage. You can set up conference calls with cloud recording services, but we haven’t found a GDPR compliant service using this method.

 

We have come across an Android app that records to the device’s local storage, Call Recorder S9  – Automatic Call Recorder Pro. Nothing on iOS so far…

 

Telephone audio recorder

You can buy call recording hardware for your phone. The RecorderGear PR200 interfaces with your mobile device via Bluetooth, audio files are recorded onto the device, which you can then plug into your computer to transfer the data over.

telephone audio recorderAnother, cheaper option is to use an adapter (such as the Speak-IT smartphone and iPhone recording adapter) to split off the signal from the headset you’d use to make a phone call hands free on your mobile. It’s a very simple bit of kit and the split plugs into your usual recording device, e.g. a Dictaphone.

 

You can use a similar device (like this one from PCM Telecom) to record landline calls. Electronically speaking, they’re slightly more complicated because the device has to incorporate a line isolator to protect you from potentially hazardous voltages that could be transmitted down the phone line in a fault condition, so it’s not a straightforward split of the audio signals.

VoIP Calls

 

Zoom.us, the VoIP service, have a feature where you can record conversations directly to your local disk if you call using a laptop or desktop computer (this feature is not available on iOS or Android operating systems). Zoom.us will record each participant’s video and/or audio stream as a separate video and/or audio file.

You can load these audio files into audio editing software, adjust the levels and create a stereo mix of the conversation. If that seems daunting, we can do that for you here at Transcribe This.

 

These are just a few of the options available. Good luck (…but also test your chosen method before your important phone call)! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions – if we can help, we will!

 

Audio Transcription Styles

September 24, 2018

 “Which transcription style would you like us to use?” – most people would be forgiven for staring blankly at this point, but don’t panic! We’re here to help…

There are three commonly referenced styles of transcription – intelligent verbatim, verbatim and discourse analysis.

Transcribe This House Style

Transcribe This uses a house style that is ‘almost verbatim’, where dialogue is typed as spoken, but decluttered a little by removing uhms and ahs and similar:

Includes Excludes
All fillers such as ‘you know’, ‘know what I mean?, ‘kind of’ All ums, ahs, ehs
All repetitions up to a maximum of three. E.g. the, the, the… All stutters
All interruptions, laughter, coughing etc. E.g. ‘I told him not to do it but he fell flat on his face! [laughter] All pauses
Time stamps averaging one per page of the transcript
All non-standard/slang language typed as heard. E.g. ‘cos’, ‘shoulda’ etc.
Inaudible passages marked with time stamp. E.g. ‘I went to see [inaudible 00:00:00] parked my car’


Intelligent Verbatim

Intelligent verbatim is a transcription style where recorded speech is cleaned up and distractions are removed, therefore capturing what was said rather than how it was said.

Includes Excludes
Time stamps averaging one per page of transcript All ums, ahs, ehs
All non-standard/slang language replaced with more standard versions. E.g. ‘cos’ will be transcribed as ‘cause, ‘shoulda’ will be transcribed as should have etc. All repetitions, unless repeated for emphasis. E.g. “I am very, very happy with it”
Inaudible passages marked with time stamp. E.g. ‘I went to see [inaudible 00:00:00] parked my car’ All stutters
All pauses
All interruptions, laughter, coughing etc.
All fillers such as ‘you know’, ‘know what I mean?, ‘kind of’

Strict Verbatim

Strict verbatim is a transcription style where every word, sound and non-verbal communication is captured, therefore capturing how a person speaks as well as what they are saying.

Includes
All fillers such as ‘you know’, ‘know what I mean?, ‘kind of’
All repetitions up to a maximum of three. E.g. the, the, the…
All interruptions, laughter, coughing etc. E.g. ‘I told him not to do it, but he fell flat on his face! [laughter]
Time stamps averaging one per page of transcript
All pauses. E.g. ‘I can’t remember [pause] but I think it was two.’
All non-standard/slang language typed as heard. E.g. ‘cos’, ‘shoulda’
Inaudible passages marked with time stamp. E.g. ‘I went to see [inaudible 00:00:00] parked my car’
All stutters
All ums, ahs, ehs
Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis is an umbrella term that includes a number of approaches to analysing the spoken (or written) word and seeks to record information beyond the spoken word, for instance tone of voice, any sounds in the room, interruptions, pauses. It’s widely used in qualitative research. It’s common for the client to ask the transcriber to work to a bespoke set of guidelines when using discourse analysis.

Phillips conference recorderRecording a large group of multiple speakers, for example a meeting or focus group, requires specialist recording equipment. A simple and relatively inexpensive solution is to use a purpose built conference recorder. The example pictured is a Phillips DPM8900 Conference recorder.

Crucially, the kit includes several boundary microphones, which when placed on a table, wall or other large surface, use the ‘boundary effect’ to capture a clear, phase coherent recording and they have a hemispherically shaped pick-up pattern.

The microphones should be placed so that ideally, all the speakers are all equidistant from a microphone.

The recording device pictured combines the signal from all the microphones and  records them to a stereo audio file. Because the relative levels of the different microphones cannot be subsequently adjusted it is important to ensure good microphone placement at the outset.

(If you had a device capable of multi-track recording, then you would be able to adjust the level of each microphone channel at a later date using specialist audio editing software – but that’s a whole different ball game and quite costly!)

If you’re unsure about setting the recording level, just remember that it’s much easier to correct for a signal that’s too low than too high so err on the low side. Too high a level causes clipping, which is pretty much impossible to correct for – on our budget anyway!

Some simple tips for getting good audio:

  • Turn off any fans in the room. If you have to use a fan, make sure that it is not placed on the same table as the microphones and not pointing directly at any microphones.panna-coaster-assorted-colours__0246665_PE385605_S4
  • Find a quiet room. Keep windows closed if there is noise outside. Even a little traffic noise can obscure dialogue.
  • If you’re serving tea and coffee, don’t use saucers – they clatter very loudly – and the noise will be transmitted through the table to the microphones. Use rubber coasters to dampen the noise of cups being placed down on the table, you can get some very inexpensive ones – Ikea coasters pictured.
  • Ask participants to speak one at a time. If at all possible, the chair or moderator should try to mention the speaker’s name – to introduce them or to thank them for instance – at each contribution. It is often very difficult for the transcriber to distinguish between voices. At the very least, ask each participant to identify themselves at the beginning of the recording.
  • If you study or work at a university, often your department will have a ‘conference kit’ that you can borrow. This could save you some money!