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Remote Interpreting: The New Normal

Jan 27, 2021 | Interpreter Education

by: Brooke LaTurno, EIPA 3.8 - NIR Interpreter Coordinator

Remote Interpreting: The New Normal

Remote interpreting has become more widespread in our industry since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Whether you have been interpreting remotely for years, for months, or just a few days, there are some best practices that can improve the way you experience your assignments.

This post explores those best practices.

The New Landscape

While there are benefits such as safety, nationwide opportunities, and convenience in remote work, there are also significant challenges.

What are the challenges?

  • Creating a workstation
  • Using new technology
  • Prepping for the assignment
  • Work-life balance
  • Let’s walk through some tips for each.

1. Creating a Workstation

Pick a room that is private, quiet, and well lit. You will want to have the following items on hand:

  • work surface
  • ergonomic chair
  • computer
  • quality webcam
  • headset
  • reliable internet connection
  • solid color backdrop
  • backup video-capable device

Consider the following:


  • Good lighting will ensure clients can see you clearly and will protect you from eye strain.
  • Avoid bright lights that create screen glare
  • Seek out natural light sources when possible.


  • Adjust your chair height and angle and sit back in the chair.
  • The chair should support your lower back.


  • Your device should sit an arm’s length away from your body.
  • Your eyes should be in line with the top of the screen, or just below.
  • Rest your eyes by following the 20:20:20 rule in which you look 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • When staring at computer screens, we tend to blink less often: be sure your eyes do not dry out while on a long assignment.

2. Using New Technology

Familiarize yourself with the software you’ll be using before the assignment.

Below is some of the basic information you will want to know, before accepting remote work (using Zoom)


  • How to mute/unmute yourself
  • How to start/stop your video
  • How to enter/exit full screen


  • How to rename yourself
  • How to use the chat feature (1-on-1 vs Everyone)
  • How to raise/lower your hand

Focusing on What’s Important

  • How to hide/show participants
  • How to move the participants’ panel
  • How to pin a participants’ video
  • Speaker View vs Gallery View
  • How to adjust the size of the Host’s screen/video (during screen share)

A Graceful Exit

  • How to leave a meeting

3. Prepping for the Assignment

Get as much information ahead of time as possible and try to make a game plan with your team before the assignment, so you both know what to expect.

Below are some questions to consider as you prep:

  • How will you introduce yourself to the clients?
  • - Will there be time before the event begins to confer with the Deaf/hard of hearing/hearing clients?

  • If you are teaming, will the Active Interpreter or the Support Interpreter make introductions?
  • - Will it be verbal or typed?

  • How will you work with your team?
  • - How will you indicate that you need a feed, repair a message, or cue that it is time to switch?

  • When will you discuss your teaming approach to the client(s), so they know when it is time to switch?
  • - Will you provide an opportunity for the client(s) to provide feedback, if needed? How?

  • What about debriefing?
  • - If the Host ends the meeting, will you and your team arrange a separate virtual meeting to debrief?

Make sure you know who to contact for support (the agency? the assignment contact person?) in case something unexpected occurs, or if there are technical difficulties.

Did you know?

Zoom has a built-in feature for spoken language interpreters. Be careful if you are asked to join a Zoom meeting using this avenue – unfortunately, it is not Deaf-friendly and will not work for ASL assignments.

4. Work-Life Balance

Habits of Body

Movement and stretching can help improve stamina and prevent injury.

Stretches for before and after assignments:

  • shoulder rolls
  • neck rolls
  • reach your hands up to the sky
  • seated spinal twist
  • forward fold
  • Stretches that can be used discretely during assignments (off screen):

  • wrist rolls
  • flexing and pointing your feet

It is important to consider ways that you can safeguard your emotional space as well.

Habits of Mind

Stress relief practices prevent burnout and promote well-being.

Consider building on the following:

  • breathing excercises
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • working out
  • grounding technique
  • journaling

Whatever helps you to de-stress, make time for it.

If you are a frequent Zoom user, the following keyboard shortcuts may be useful:

First Things First
Mute/Unmute Audio Command + Shift + A Alt + A
Start/Stop Video Command + Shift + V Alt + V
Enter/Exit Full Screen Command + Shift + F Alt + F
Show/Hide Chat Panel Command + Shift + H Alt + H
Raise/Lower Hand Option + Y Alt + Y
Focusing on What Is Important
Display/Hide Participants Panel Command + U Alt + U
View Previous 25 Participants Ctrl + P PageUp
View Next 25 Participants Ctrl + N PageDown
Switch between View/Gallery View Command + Shift + W

Alt + F1

For Speaker

Alt + F2

For Gallery

I hope this Nationwide Interpreter Resource short guide makes you feel more comfortable and confident accepting remote assignments in the future. If there are any tips you have learned from your own experience, please share them in the comments below!

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