Mindful Тranslation: Understanding Isolation in Remote Work

Introduction

Hello everyone! My name is Maria and I am part of the Business Development Team at 1-StopAsia. Aside from this, though, I have another passion – Psychology. For my luck with Psychology, we have been together now for 5 years, and this love for sure will last forever. In the upcoming series of articles, we will dive deeper into how Psychology is related to our fascinating Translation Industry and to the mental health effects of remote work. We will touch on some topics that no one talks about and we will open those corners to the light, and all of that with our look into maintaining work-life balance for remote workers.

Today we will point our attention to the strategies for combating isolation while working remotely. Remote work has brought tremendous flexibility and opportunities for us in the translation industry. However, it also presents a significant challenge: isolation. As a member of the Business Development team at 1-StopAsia with a background in Psychology, I’ve observed how the psychological effects of social isolation affect not just translators but all employees in the translation sector. Let’s explore the implications and strategies for maintaining social connections and mental health, no matter your role.

The Psychological Effects of Social Isolation in the Translation Industry

Remote work often means working alone, without the daily social interactions typical in a traditional office setting. This could mean working from your bed, your kitchen table, the couch, or if you are lucky – in your home office. This isolation can lead to:

  • Increased Loneliness: Without regular interaction with colleagues, translators, project managers, and other team members often feel disconnected and lonely. Even if you are not alone at home, it is still impossible to explain your frustration over a CAT tool setting to your doctor’s spouse, right? It’s simply not the same as talking to a colleague from the industry. 
  • Declining Mental Health: Have you had any of those days when you just feel so tired without any reason? Or those days you are so tired but still unable to stop thinking about work and fall asleep for hours? Don’t worry, we all have those days! Maybe it is time to spend some time outside! Prolonged isolation can worsen the mental health effects of remote work and lead to conditions like depression and anxiety.
  • Reduced Productivity: As social beings, our motivation and productivity thrive in an environment of support and fellowship. Working in isolation can significantly diminish enthusiasm and negatively affect work quality.
  • Work-Life Imbalance: And now your dining table is also a working desk. Your bedroom can also be your office. You work while you have lunch… at the same table. Working from home can make maintaining a work-life balance harder for remote workers, leading to burnout and disconnection.
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Strategies for Maintaining Social Connections and Mental Health

Okay, we mentioned all the disadvantages. Now let’s talk about strategies for combating isolation while working remotely:

1. Virtual Communities and Peer Support:

Maria and fellow professionals at a LocLunch event in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, April 2024
Maria and fellow professionals at a LocLunch event in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, April 2024
  • Join online communities or professional groups specific to your role for support and fellowship. Participation in forums, webinars, or social media groups allows for shared experiences and professional growth. Our industry is inclusive, with numerous opportunities for networking both online and offline. Consider engaging with initiatives from ELIA, Women in Localization, Translators without Borders, LocInPink, and LocLunch.
  • GALA is the other organization that helps and works towards a global and larger professional community, where people from the industry from all around the world can meet and network.
  • ELIA aims to accelerate the business success of its members through networking, education, and the exchange of best practices. ELIA organizes various events, including networking days and conferences, which provide platforms for professionals to connect, share knowledge, and explore new business opportunities. 
  • Women in Localization supports women in the localization industry through networking events, mentorship, and professional development opportunities. 
  • Translators without Borders is a nonprofit that provides translation services for humanitarian purposes, offering volunteers the chance to connect and collaborate. 
  • LocInPink and LocLunch are informal networking groups where professionals meet to discuss industry trends and share experiences.
  • LocWorld is another prominent event that offers a series of conferences focused on the language industry, attracting professionals from all over the world. These events provide valuable opportunities to network, attend workshops, and stay updated with industry trends.
  • Pro Tip: Visit a LocLunch Event. There are such events organized all over the world and in different cities almost every week! They are free to attend by every volunteer and are an excellent way to connect with other industry colleagues and share a tasty meal! Actively engage by sharing insights, asking questions, and offering help to build relationships that provide valuable emotional and professional support. You can also do that within your company!
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2. Regular Check-Ins with Colleagues:

  • Schedule regular virtual meetings with colleagues to discuss projects, challenges, and successes. Informal conversations help simulate a traditional office’s “water cooler” talks. Some companies have Water Cooler channels in their internal communication platforms. 
  • Pro Tip: If you are part of a company, sign up on communication platforms like the one we have called 1-StopCommunity or seek advice from HR for meetups and team-building activities that can bring you closer to your peers. If you are a freelancer, create or join networking groups online or locally. Freelancers can also benefit from platforms like ProZ.com, which offers forums and events for translators to connect and share knowledge.

3. Establish a Routine and Boundaries:

  • Structure your daily routine with clear work hours to maintain a work-life balance as a remote worker. Taking regular breaks for stretching, a walk, a quick game with your little one, or meditation can rejuvenate the mind and body.
  • Pro Tip: Use productivity apps or time-blocking techniques to schedule focused work periods and breaks. Establish a set endpoint for your workday to maintain balance (if you work on flexible hours).

4. Coworking Spaces or Remote Working Hubs:

  • If possible, work from a coworking space or a local café for a change of scenery and opportunities to socialize with others. It still makes a huge difference even if it is for an hour. However, if additional expenses are a concern, consider gathering with fellow translators in a local park.
  • Pro Tip: Seek spaces that host networking events or opportunities for casual connections with other professionals. The LocLunches are a perfect opportunity for that! Alternatively, you can organize informal meetups in public spaces like parks or libraries to avoid additional costs.
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5. Mental Health Resources and Therapy:

  • It is the 21st century and now seeing a therapist is even trendy! Even if you do not experience symptoms or feel emotionally stable, regularly checking in with mental health resources or therapy can provide invaluable support not only for managing anxiety and depression but also for happiness and balance in your life. 
  • Pro Tip: Teletherapy offers confidential, cost-effective support if in-person therapy isn’t available or practical. You can use a suitable platform to find experienced therapists. Additionally, organizations like the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI) offer the industry’s resources and support for mental health.

6. Skill Development and Hobbies:

  • Pursue hobbies and skills outside work to keep your mind engaged and foster connections with like-minded individuals. Anything from painting and crafts to fishing and sports is a great idea! Look for industry-specific groups like LocRides to connect with peers over shared interests.
  • LocRides is a community of localization professionals who organize bike rides and other outdoor activities to network and stay active.
  • Pro Tip: Join virtual clubs, courses, or groups related to art, language, fitness, or anything that sparks your passion.

Conclusion

Isolation is a challenge across all roles in the remote translation industry, but proactive strategies can help maintain social connections and mental health. By fostering a support network, prioritizing self-care, and normalizing open conversations about challenges, we can create a supportive environment where all employees thrive. The translation industry is highly inclusive, offering ample networking opportunities both online and offline. Platforms like LinkedIn are also excellent for connecting with peers, and there are many local and national groups available for translators on a budget. Let’s take this opportunity to reshape the industry to include better connections and a stronger support network that prioritizes the well-being of everyone involved.