Keeping In Touch While Physical Distancing

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique realities for countries and their citizens, who are rushing to respond to this once-in-a-century event. Here at InterEcho, we pride ourselves on connecting communities all over the world and keeping a keen eye on what’s happening on the international scene. With that in mind, we tapped into our global network of linguists to see how they’re dealing with the current situation in their respective countries.

David Conti, a Rome-based transcreator and copywriter, says that the shutdown hasn’t affected his normal workflow too much. As a freelancer he is used to working from home, though generally this isn’t the norm for the rest of Italy, where “the working mentality is still very much focused on being present at the office … and time at the desk is seen as an indicator of a good employee rather than actual productivity.”

He adds that “many larger companies have had to hastily improvise an e-work platform while smaller tech companies were somewhat more prepared and already had some program in place.” David hopes that “the current crisis will spur government officials to invest in widespread high-speed connectivity, as well as prove to some corporate executives that a lavoro intelligente (smart work) program is in the best interests of all.”

Similarly, Claudio Magalhaes, a Brazilian transcreator, says that working from home is not common in his country. “I can count on one hand the number of my friends, family, and acquaintances who worked from home prior to this,” he says. “But I’ve been joking with my fellow freelancers that this period of self-isolation is really just another day at the home-office for us.”

Osama Hussein, an Egypt-based Middle Eastern languages expert says that his team was better prepared than most for the pandemic that has disrupted the daily work-lives of many people in Cairo. Having worked extensively with online translation and workflow management tools in the past, he has been able to efficiently virtualize the collaborative process at a time when just handing over a document has become a potential biohazard.

For Sebastian Gallot, one of our French linguists, this situation has given him an opportunity to ponder the changes that might arise as we all adjust to this new reality. “Working from home is not that common yet [in France], although it’s becoming more and more popular. I think things might change after the pandemic. Perhaps some people will want to work from home more often because it gives greater freedom and allows us to spend more time with our family, without any loss of productivity.”

Social isolation hasn’t just changed the location of our work, it’s also changed its nature. The things we once took for granted are now what we’re most eager to get back. For David, that was something as simple as just being outside.

“Being both a copywriter and transcreator, a lot of my work requires out-of-the-box thinking. What always helped me achieve this was taking long walks, even back in the old agency days,” he says. “Now that the lockdown has set in, it’s become harder to find that eureka moment.”

Additionally, while the widespread silence was a relief at first, as the weeks have gone on he has found it more and more unsettling. “I’m having a hard time knowing what day I’m actually in. It seems like we’re all living through an endless Sunday.” In a country like Italy where family and personal connections are so important to daily life, the impact of this fundamental upset cannot be underestimated.

We’re all working to ensure our productivity and preserve our sanity, and it’s clear that our linguists take different approaches to maintaining this delicate balance, driven both by cultural norms and individual preferences. Of course, there are as many different ways of finding the silver lining in these uncertain times as there are people in the world, and that diversity is a foundational strength of what we do at InterEcho.

As people everywhere adjust to the necessity of social distancing guidelines, it’s evident we all still yearn for connection — with those around us and those across the globe. Here at InterEcho we will continue our mission of fostering these connections and bringing people from all cultures closer together. We are committed to working with our network of clients and linguists to ensure that we help get each other through this seemingly endless Sunday.

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