On a bright day in 2015 (before working remotely), I put on my black long-sleeved dress and a denim jacket. I faced myself in the mirror and said, “Do I really look cool enough to be a brand strategist? No. But this is what I got.”

I had just graduated from my Masters in Branding program earlier that summer— a year of my life absorbing qualitative and quantitative research methods, brand strategy work sessions, creative voice, and business basics. I felt confident walking into that NYC coffee shop for the interview with… let’s call him “Daniel.” At first, he questioned why I was there because my resume was design-focused. I explained that my background was in identity design, but my real strength was in brand strategy and I had received awards for leadership in my program. (You know… the stuff you say in interviews).

And wonders beyond wonders, Daniel wanted to hire me. It started great! The onboarding process was fairly straightforward.

A month into the job, sh&% hit the fan. Daniel quit. He told me that the owners had promised that he would have the ability to better the company culture and hire a larger team to alleviate stress— and well, that never happened.

Suddenly, I reported to the company owners who, I later found out, didn’t really want me there. I was Daniel’s hire and not theirs, but they felt stuck with me. I went above and beyond to win over their favor— I started doing account work, design work, video production work, and strategy work simultaneously.

My plate filled up so fast that I started to drown in my own “yesses" in order to please them. 

Working remotely, Hardly

My 1hr subway commute to the office in the morning started to feel like a waste of time. On one especially stressful day, I called in and said “I have to stay home today.” And they said “Why!?! Are you sick?” “No, I simply don’t have 2hrs to spare for coming into the office today.” 

Though they complained often, most strategists at that consultancy worked from home at least once a week. But my string of remote working the next few months rivalled the month I skipped of my junior year Spanish class— at the end of which, my teacher said “Allison better show up with a broken leg or cancer.” (Sorry, I don’t mean for this to sound callous to cancer survivors…. or high school Spanish teachers… )

Why would I spend 2hrs in a train when I’m already not sleeping more than 4-5 hours a night? I had so much to do that sleeping felt like a privilege that I didn’t deserve. In that time, I learned I could be self-motivated at home, and if I really focused, I could get more accomplished. In the end, found out that I loved the quiet of it all.

2hrs each day x 22 workdays a month = 44hrs on the subway. The pros of working remotely vastly outweighed the cons to me.

1. No commute. 2hrs each day x 22 workdays a month = 44 hours. That’s a whole work week every month back in my grasp. Boom-shakalaka.

2. Ability to focus. Nobody asking me for quick favors or distracting me with small talk.

3. Fewer meetings. Magically, meetings that would normally be called during the middle of the day just disappeared.

4. I felt like an adult. Having someone literally (yes, literally) breathing down my neck while I was finishing a presentation made me feel like a child. By this point, I was 26. Yet somehow, I felt more like a child than I did when I was actually a child.

5. And, obviously, I could spend more time with my cats.

That was 2015! Now in 2020, it is easier to work from home. In the past few years, I went to another agency that swore up-and-down that remote work didn’t work for creative teams. But thankfully, they gave it a try before the 2020 apocalypse happened. 

There are tons of resources out there for creative teams working remotely and other types of companies needing to collaborate.

Working remotely, Hardly

Miro, a whiteboarding collaboration company, allows for multiple people to move images, text and other items around the screen. As the person who previously had to copy all the Expo marker scribble from the physical whiteboards onto the computer, I would like to send my personal gratitude to Miro for existing.

And dude, I started using Wrike a month or two ago. You can set up projects, create subtasks and assign to team members, designate priorities, automatically generate charts, and provide context around everything. Even *MY* chaotic brain gets organized when I put my tasks in there.

We have this incredible world of digital work at our fingertips. Did it arise out of a global pandemic and a year that has felt like being shoved into Satan’s armpit? Yes. However, I believe our growing knowledge of digital communication tools will positively change our work environments moving forward.

We have to fight to stay focused, and we have to fight to pull away

Hardly makes remote work easier for everyone, and ensures that work-life balance exists in a world where there is no physical separation between work and life.

I’m looking forward to starting this journey with you. Let’s do this.

Allison Braund-Harris

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