One of the many swift changes to our collective lives brought on by COVID-19 was an overhaul to the way we work. For me, who has worked from home since 2018, the sudden pivot only reinforced the way I have structured my company: as a light and tight team of creatives with no set office hours, who are allowed to come and go as they please — so long as they stay available on Slack, meet deadlines, and provide an exemplary level of service to our clients.
While we do gather in person, I believe this structure allows me access to class-A creative talent. Talent that, should I suddenly demand they come to sit in front of a computer from 9-5 every day, would likely opt out of working with me altogether. Often, the people I hire have side hustles and passion projects they’re working on in their off-hours. It’s actually something I look for in a job interview. While a lot of employers would probably see these commitments as something that encroaches on employees’ commitment or performance, I think it’s an excellent indicator of a self-starter: something you absolutely have to be if your schedule allows for our level of flexibility.
More importantly, it indicates to me that this is someone who is not going to make their job at Graves Creative their entire identity.
I look for this because I learned hard lessons earlier in my career about allowing my job to become indiscernible from who I was.
Storytime: Years ago, I accepted a job that contractually demanded I let go of all other professional commitments — of which I had many at the time. There was the original iteration of this newsletter, then a thriving lifestyle website. There were brand consulting clients, speaking engagements, and standing contributing writer roles at several magazines. I walked away from all of it because I thought this job would move my career forward. I should have known from the jump that a company that expected to “own” me would never do anything but suck me bone-dry and drop me off in the street, like professional roadkill.
When I lost that job, I was devastated. I’d poured my entire being into it. I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager, and big triggers like job loss can really send you spinning if you’re not being proactive about your mental health, which I was not, because I let the job consume me. I tabled therapy visits, letting my medication and overall health lapse. Because I didn’t go to the doctor for two years, my endometriosis flared up, and I was often in intense pain. I sunk into a deep depression.
My depression was so bad, my self-esteem so gutted, it left me very vulnerable to predatory people, and three months later, I found myself in an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive relationship with a man who almost killed me. 2018 left me jobless, sure, but also with a broken heart — and a few broken teeth.