The COVID-19 pandemic has already reshaped our relation to work and life in big ways. Certain sectors will never be the same again, while some are working under extreme pressure (respect to all health workers!). The pandemic has already hit many small and medium-sized companies badly. This is especially true of those that rely on big flows of people and material goods. The joke is that nothing has really changed for translators and editors. We still sit in front of our computers in home offices, working away on texts. But we also depend on relationships with people outside of our homes, and this world is reconfiguring. How, then, have I been affected by COVID-19 and the sectors I work in more widely?
My work during the COVID-19 pandemic
I have noticed a moderate slowdown in translation and academic editing requests. Many universities have closed their buildings and faculty members are busy adapting to online tuition and to balancing work–family life, and reduced or no access to archives. Luckily, I have had an academic book translation to work on. This has given me stability and a routine over the “Corona” transition period. Further down the line, I expect that these requests will return to normal. And copyediting for publishers (all completed remotely) will continue as before. Perhaps the isolation conditions will result in many academics and writers staying at home and writing more. Yet finding funds for editing, and translation work will not be top of people’s list of spending priorities.
In translation, the effects vary across sectors. Marketing has seen a surge in demand for COVID-19 related translations. Meanwhile, colleagues have reported a slowdown in legal and medical translation, which is supposedly now easing off. Public service interpreters have been particularly badly affected.
For editorial services, my guess for the sectors I work in is that it will be business as usual at first. Then there may be a medium-term slowdown of work from academic packagers and publishers. There was an almost immediate initial slowdown of direct requests from researchers and writers, but I expect this will later subside. Obviously, these circumstances are new, and unprecedented. It is hard to make predictions, although it will be interesting to revisit them six months down the line!
Given that I and many other editors & translators have few overheads (in principle I can get by with access to a computer and fast internet), there are no direct large costs associated with keeping the business running – a stark contrast with café, pub, shop, and other kinds of small business owners, who will be much more drastically hit. Those of us who have saved up an emergency fund will be able to get through several months of a reduction in workload as well. The longer-term consequences are more difficult to predict.
For now, the priority is staying safe and well, and adapting to the changing circumstances in a way that keeps the wheels turning! More tips from a wider range of perspectives can be found on the CIEP blog post on this very same issue.
How has your work been affected (or not) by COVID-19?