Business owner/operators, freelancers, managers and many different types of employees often have access to clients' personal information. They might know other people's banking or health details, their stories or intellectual property.
If you're working in a position where you've got access to your clients' private information it's essential to maintain confidentiality in regard to your clients and all the material they have provided to you or that you've produced for them.
You can maintain confidentiality by:
A lot of people work with sensitive or disturbing subject matter as part of their work: police officers, child protection workers, doctors and teachers just to name a few. Others don't have to deal with people face to face but they also have to sometimes work with this sort of material: for example, over the years, through my scribing and editing roles I've needed to work very closely with transcripts and publications about domestic violence, suicide, accidents, mental illness, rape and viewpoints that are difficult to fathom. Over time, I have become better at editing or scribing those occasional difficult jobs that have to be done - I am better at managing my emotions as I've matured - but to be honest, it's still not easy.
We are all different. Some transcriptionists - and editors, and scribes - keep themselves aloof from the subject matter; or after working with disturbing material for years they've got used to it and it no longer affects them.
When I'm transcribing or editing I allow myself to identify with the speaker or writer of that story or testimony, to some extent. I believe by stepping into the heart of the subject matter I learn more and do a better job and, importantly, am giving the speaker or writer and their story the respect that's due. It's easy to do this when the subject matter is okay.
But when I'm working with subject where the subject matter is really disturbing, I sometimes get to the point where I have to put down my tools (my hands, that is) and walk away - to have a cuppa, or go outside for a bit, or even have a small cry. Then, after a break, I'm able to sit down again at the computer again and keep going.
Everyone needs to debrief sometimes, especially when they've been working with disturbing subject matter, but they need to do so without breaching confidentiality. If you're working with a team you can debrief with your supervisor or (if you are sure it's appropriate) a team member, whereas if you're working alone there's usually nobody suitable with whom to debrief.
As leader of a team where I often delegate transcription work to our transcriptionists and if I think the subject matter recordings may be disturbing, I remind the team that if the subject matter is upsetting to them, 1) they should let me know so I can delegate that work to someone else on the team or do those transcripts myself, or 2)if they still want to do it, they should let me know so we can have a debrief session during or after that work, and 3) no matter how upsetting the material, they must not disclose any information to anyone apart from me because if they were to do so they'd be breaching confidentiality and their Confidentiality Agreement with On Time Typing.
When you're working in a large team, you must not divulge confidential information to anyone unless they are authorised to know that information. For example, you wouldn't talk about confidential information to a staff member working on a different project but it might be okay to talk about it to a team member who's involved in the same project (if they need to know the information).
We all know the dangers of bottling up your emotions. If you're uncomfortable or upset by the information you've been dealing with you should always debrief with the most appropriate person. The best person to talk to about confidential information is generally your direct supervisor.
People who work alone - e.g. freelancers, sole traders - have the same challenges as people who work in teams in regard to working with confidential information, but if you work alone you generally won't have anyone appropriate to debrief with.
If you're in this situation and feeling emotional or upset about the confidential material with which you're working:
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is especially important when you're working with subject matter that's disturbing but which you can't talk about because it's confidential. One aspect of having a healthy balance is leaving work at work where it belongs. I've published some articles about how to maintain a healthy work-life balance in this chapter of my blog: Work life balance when working from home
On Time Typing maintains confidentiality in regard to other people's private information. We respect all clients' right to privacy. We are also legally required to maintain confidentiality because we have opted in (voluntarily) to be covered by Australia's Privacy Laws. For more information see: Blog: Confidentiality and Australia's Privacy Act.
My understanding of how to debrief whilst maintaining confidentiality is based on 15 years' experience scribing and editing reports, minutes of meetings and publications; transcribing recorded interviews and investigations; and managing a team of transcriptionists and editors.