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  • Jessica Rael-Brook

5 truths about life at a virtual agency

Higher productivity, better quality of life, and more

At some point, everyone has dreamt about quitting their 9-to-5 job and somehow becoming a stay-at-home professional. Having made the ruthless commute on the 405 freeway from Los Angeles to Orange County for years, I had that vision countless times. So when I was offered a position with a reputable and growing marketing agency out of the comfort of my home, I jumped (onto my couch) at the opportunity.

You mean I get to hang out with my dogs all day while I work and make a living doing what I love? Sign. Me. Up.

When I started with Pragmatic Communications, I thought it was too good to be true. Despite being remote, and 400 miles from the company’s headquarters, the onboarding was smooth, communication with team members was frequent, and the leadership truly embraced the expertise I brought to the organization.

If I’m being honest, I did have a slight hesitation to accept a fully remote position with a concern for the future of my career. Will I be too relaxed and get too distracted at home to work? Will I continue to learn new things and grow? Will I reach my career goals, advance and excel?

I was pleasantly surprised with how productive I was at home. Without a commute and unnecessary office distractions, I was getting much more done in the same amount of time I used to spend in an office. A popular 2-year Stanford study(1) found that employees who worked from home were more productive, took fewer sick days and time off, and were less likely to resign from their position than their counterparts who went in to the office every day. I can attest to all of their findings.

I quickly learned that the remote company model was built around more than just having an aversion to long commutes and stuffy offices. Pragmatic is a progressive company that maximizes productivity, encourages work-life-balance, invests in employees over unnecessary overhead, and utilizes growing technology to stay connected to clients and colleagues.

Having worked at a remote marketing agency for 2+ years now, I’ve enjoyed perks and experienced challenges. When I reflect on when I started at Pragmatic, there are certain aspects of it that live up to my expectations, but I have also been hit with some hard realities of the work-from-home life.

Expectation: I’ll be able to get so much done around the house!

Reality: Not being confined to specific hours in a specific building, you actually get more work done. Stanford’s study1 showed employees took less breaks when working from home. Since your home is your office, it’s sometimes challenging to create boundaries and turn off work.

Pro Tip: Create a morning routine, build in short breaks throughout the day, and set a time you shut things off at night.

Expectation: I get to work in my pajamas all day! Reality: If you’re client-facing, working from home will likely require you to join video calls. But good news, you’ll only have to get your top-half ready. My husband jokingly calls it, “Business on the top, fitness on the bottom.”

Pro Tip: Just don’t stand up.

Expectation: My family and friends are going to be so proud of me for landing this new amazing job!

Reality: While they may be proud of you, they’re not going to think you have a real job. Suddenly they want you to drive them to the airport at 11am, run an errand for them, or wait at their place during the 4-hour delivery window. Kids might barge in unannounced. And if you’re a dog mom like me, sometimes the pups have a hard time differentiating work with play time.

Pro Tip: Lovingly tell your family and friends to just pretend you go into an office every day, accompanied with a strong smirk. Put your pets in another room when you have important tasks or calls. Have a dedicated area or room of your house to work undistracted.

Expectation: With my company’s [insert conference and chat software here], I’m going to make great friends with all of my colleagues!

Reality: I work with some great individuals who I’d love to get a drink with on the weekends, but we’re spread all over the country. While we have in-person agency all-hands twice a year—and we sure do maximize our fun together—it’s easy to keep day-to-day communications strictly business. That can leave you feeling isolated and missing those office friendships you once had.

Pro Tip: Make an effort to virtually chat with your colleagues about non-work-related topics. Take 5 minutes at the beginning of a meeting to talk about your weekend. Share book and podcast recommendations. Pragmatic team members set up Zoom channels by interest: Bravo Enthusiasts, True Crime Weirdos, Pets of Pragmatic (of which I’m proudly the most active member), and simply a Virtual Break Room.

Expectation: Since I’m home so much, I’ll have energy for so many plans on the weekends!

Reality: It was surprising how much more of a homebody I became after working from home. Yes, sometimes I feel some isolation, and I’ll go a day with very minimal in-person human interaction. But when I go out on the weekends, I find myself missing the comfort of my home. I guess I’ve made it too comfortable and productive.

Pro Tip: Have something outside of work that gets you out of the house—a hobby, a class, a passion project, or a standing dinner date. I teach yoga 3 times a week in the mornings and getting to interact with my students boosts my energy and creativity for the day.

The reality is my overall quality of life has improved. I’m able to spend more time doing the things I love—I teach yoga 3 times a week, I eat breakfast at home with my husband, I squeeze in early morning hikes with my dogs, and can most days make it to the beach by sunset. I wouldn’t get to enjoy these life treasures as frequently if I were stuck on the 405 freeway for 10+ hours a week.

At the same time, I’ve learned so much and have grown professionally these past 2+ years with Pragmatic. I’m challenged every day and have had to get out of my comfort zone. Even with some colleagues being 3,000 miles away, our team synergy just works. I’m so proud to be part of this growing and progressive company.


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