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Q&A: Remote Year participant Emily Mitnick on her month in Prague

Stylus’ New York-based strategic account director talks us through month two of her year-long working adventure around the world, which continued in the Czech capital.

What’s it like to change your office, and your country, every month? Well, our very own Emily Mitnick knows. She’s just completed month two of Remote Year in Prague, a city she says is both magical and eccentric.

We caught up with Emily during her flying visit to London, right before she flies to Lisbon to begin month three. Here’s how she’s been getting on… ​

You’ve just spent four weeks in Prague. How did you find it? 

“People there take time to relax, read and sip on wine in the grass. It was magical and felt so peaceful and quiet. Working as a Stylus employee that captures consumer lifestyle trends, I found we should be turning to Prague for inspiration in the mindfulness department. You can jump on the tram to zip across town, yet there are rolling green parks woven into the city.

“Whether I was working out of at La Boheme café, eating goulash soup at a Michelin-starred restaurant, strolling through DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, or buying earrings from a flea market in what used to be an old train station, the city offered a mix of eccentric experiences.”

What kind of office did Remote Year find for you?

“They set us up in a workspace that used to be the Dutch embassy, and it was very representative of the style and fashion of Prague. The businessman who bought the building a few years ago had converted the embassy into a modern workspace – leaving the historic décor and original bones of the space intact.

“For example, some of the old bathrooms were converted into conference rooms – they actually put a big table right in the middle of the bathroom floor. The quiet sound booths in the basement were used by ambassadors to hold private calls with foreign nations. And out in the backyard they equipped the huge garden with wi-fi and work stations. It was unforgettable and a very inspiring place to work.”

Do you know anything about where you’ll be working before you arrive?

“I had heard through the grapevine that this was one of Remote Year’s best workspaces; that’s all I knew. But during a run on the weekend we arrived in Prague I knocked on the workspace’s door and the owner’s son greeted me. He was wearing a t-shirt with pizza prints all over it and gave me a private tour.

“I knew from the Dutch authenticity of the building that Remote Year handpicked our workspace, and I hope they do that every month. This reminded me of a trend we’re tracking called ‘Glocalization’, where brands incorporate community-focused concepts and locally attuned special design into their retail spaces. Talk about bringing this trend to life!” 

In such an amazing office, is there competition to secure the best place?

“As Hayley Ard, our head of Consumer Lifestyle, explains, ‘everyone has their own work rhythms.’ I personally looked for an upstairs desk by the window because I’ve realised how much light and a quiet space is important for me to get my work done.

“I’m learning that being in a new, inspiring and culturally rich setting refuels me at work. By feeling constantly energized, I signed up for a tech conference on my personal time. If I was back at home, I might have overlooked it.”

How’s the dynamic of the group as a whole?

“We are a mix of personalities and talents. We’ve got the UX designer, the entrepreneur, the web developer, the mama bear, the New Yorker, the photographer, the writer, the acrobat. Our group is sort of a microcosm of the different industries Stylus covers. As we explain to our clients, I’m getting inspired across different industries. I ventured out at 5am over the Charles Bridge to learn photography from a remote and signed up for a Reiki healing session to study alternative medicine with another remote.”

And the inevitable question… how’s the work-life balance? 

“I’ve first-hand experienced after two months on Remote Year how inspiring environments naturally balance your work and life. There’s itinerary planning involved to ensure you can travel and explore while taking care of your work. On Remote Year, when you’re already working out of an inspiring location, the work-life balance becomes effortless and one. It’s a blended lifestyle that Stylus should certainly continue to promote and one that I highly recommend.”  

What do your working days look like? 

“If I know I’ve got back-to-back calls in the afternoon, I explore and relax in the mornings. With the time difference, a lot of my work is taken care of between 4pm and 1am. These are my ‘power days’, I guess. I’m definitely learning how precious my time is.”

You spend a month in each city before moving on. Does that feel long enough?

“I left New York City after living there for almost 10 years; that still wasn’t enough time! So a month is never really enough. The only way to extend the experience is to immerse myself into the everyday life. Chuck, who owned the store below my apartment in Prague, knew me by my first name. He gave me a huge hug goodbye when I left.

“I loved that by the end of the month in Prague, I could give a stranger directions on the subway. That was a fulfilling feeling.”

Would you say this feeling was your highlight from Prague?

“That’s a really good question, but no – there were actually two stronger highlights. Firstly, I found my trip to Auschwitz the most impactful. Not only because my own family had escaped there but because during my visit I learned how the genocide was being covered up. 

“For instance, our guide pointed out how bodies were used as fertilizer for the trees behind us, and where the Nazis tried to destroy the gas chambers when the war ended, as if nothing had happened. It was harrowing. I’m still reflecting that trip now, two weeks later. 

“On a much lighter note, the second highlight of my month in Prague was the Czech people’s notable tranquillity. I got the sense that their way of life has contributed to the rural landscape and their deep history.”

You’re in London for a few days before heading to Lisbon. Was it straightforward organising a week away from the Remote Year group?

“Yes, it was very straightforward. I had to travel to London to attend the Stylus Innovation Forum, which is where we launched our new Future of Work research. Ironically this business trip is a perfect example of this digital nomadic work trend.”

Have you been brushing up on your Portuguese?

“I know ‘obrigado’ means ‘thank you!” I guess I’ll have to crash study on the plane. Unfortunately, being fluent in Spanish will not help that much as the languages are very different.”

“I’ll have to find my new local coffee shop, find my new route to the office and learn a new currency again. But this is all part of it, right?”

After Lisbon, Emily will be heading to Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Lima, Medellin, Bogota and Mexico City.