With all the social distancing that’s going on, even freelancers who are used to working from home are in need of a more human approach in their daily communications. And they’re not the only ones.
Our relationships with the scores of freelancers who work with us have always varied widely. Some of our translators and proofreaders are all business, simply accepting assignments and returning them with the usual professional courtesy. Others have been our go-tos for years, so we may know something about their families, pets, hobbies and interests. Our project managers consider it part of their job to sense who is comfortable with what level of familiarity and to respect boundaries.
Now the coronavirus is changing some of those relationships.
Many freelancers tend to be lone wolves, accustomed to the relative isolation of their home offices. Working remotely is their modus operandi anyway. So, apart from the volume of projects coming in, one might assume that Covid-19 had not actually altered much about their work at all.
But in fact, a small revolution seems to be happening out there. Over the past few months, as the corona pandemic began to spread in earnest and lockdowns impacted more and more regions, many of our freelancers started opening up.
One of our project managers put it this way: “I’ve noticed that translators call us much more often. They miss the human contact. I also spend a lot more time chatting with clients about the situation in general, and sometimes even about our personal lives. Everybody feels the need to share, to tell others about themselves.”
How do relationships move to a deeper level in practice? People often reach out in subtle ways – maybe as basic as “How’s everything going with you?” or “Hope you had a good vacation and got to recharge your batteries.” But if they’ve never asked questions like this before, it may indicate a desire to communicate on a more personal level. Empathetic PMs are delighted to take these offers up.
Recently, for example, a translator took a bit longer than usual to answer an e-mail. Rather than a simple “Sorry for not getting back to you earlier,” she mentioned that she had taken advantage of the beautiful weather to go out for a quick swim – which led to a lively conversation about the fjords near her home and the area in general. Another translator sent in a picture of his office mate (a charming black cat) – opening a new window into his day-to-day work and sparking a long, friendly chat.
Project managers are people too, of course, and just as affected by social distancing as the rest of us. So they have started reaching out as well, often calling clients rather than sending an e-mail. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Clearly, everyone is craving some extra human contact.
We fervently hope that the coronavirus will soon be behind us. For now, though, we are grateful for the new and deeper connections that have grown out of these strange times – an unexpected silver lining that has already enriched our business relationships.