#WFH Diaries: Jennifer Risi of The Sway Effect

As the pandemic continues, and with most folks still working from home, we're continuing to check in with industry pros to see how they're faring. Below, we chat with Jennifer Risi of The Sway Effect.

Give us a one-line bio of yourself.

I am founder and president of The Sway Effect, one of the fastest-growing independent agencies in the marketing and communications industry today. We are focused on "swaying" opinion and putting diversity, equity and inclusion at the center of everything we do.

Where are you living right now, and who's with you?

I am living in my New York City apartment, in the heart of it all in Midtown. My dog Sam is my constant companion.

What's your work situation like at the moment, and how is it evolving? 

I've never seen our team come together as we have during this time. We are coming up with creative ways to get the job done, and I would have to say the team has never been more dedicated—we are doing some of the best work that I have seen in my 20 years in the industry.

From day one, The Sway Effect's model was built on collaboration and bringing together the best talent from anywhere in the world. Now more than ever, clients want access to talent to serve as extensions of their teams without the cost and added bureaucracy. Agencies today need to be agile, adaptable and always one step ahead of what a client might need. Today's environment has caused so many changes, and this environment has provided an opportunity for our team to thrive. 

When do you expect to return to the office?

On March 1, we "officially" moved into our new office in the Chrysler Building. Unfortunately, we didn't get much time to make it our home. When our city officials deem it safe to come back, we'll do so, but for now, we are working remotely.

Describe your socializing strategy.

At the start of the pandemic, I participated in so many Zoom happy hours, but at this point, so many of us have Zoom fatigue. As a business owner, I understand the desire to have employee gatherings over Zoom to stay connected, but it can feel too much like a forced mechanism for networking, and after a long day, our teams just want to disconnect and be with their families. Nowadays I'll make a point to informally FaceTime or arrange socially distanced meet-ups with friends, colleagues and reporters—with our proper PPE gear, of course!

What are you reading?

My work can sometimes be intense, so I like to escape when I can. I love the New York Post, Vanity Fair and InStyle. I also love getting into celebrity rags like People and Us Weekly.

What are you watching?

Like so many of us, I am obsessed with Netflix and Hulu. Before Covid-19, I used to travel a lot, so I missed out on watching a lot of shows. I'm now catching up to the rest of the world. I binged watched shows like Damages and Schitt's Creek, and I recently binged watched Cobra Kai in two days. On the brighter side, the pandemic is also giving us the opportunity to connect back to a time when we were younger—and to things that made us happy. I think I have watched Back to the Future about 10 times this month alone!

What are you listening to?

I love pop music, like anything from Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. Some people might consider it "bad" music, but I love it. I also love some good R&B, like from Usher or anything from the Empire soundtrack. 

How are you staying fit?

I used to work out with a trainer twice a week for years. When the Covid-19 pandemic started, my friend Ginny connected me with her lifelong friend Jane to train over Zoom, and amazingly I've never been stronger. For me, it's now three days a week with Jane, and running the other days. I also bought a new bicycle to get riding again, just like when I was a kid on the boardwalk in Long Beach, New York.

Have you taken up a hobby?

I've started to cook more. I've also become a pretty good mixologist. I can make a mean cosmopolitan—light on the Rose's lime juice and cranberry.

An awkward moment since all this started.

It's not necessarily awkward for me, but it's fun to see the random family members and pets, as well as sounds that happen in the background over Zoom. I've had my friends, family and even my dog walker make appearances in Zoom meetings. I recently had construction done in my apartment and was cramped up in a corner of a room with my whole closet out and exposed for the world to see. We are all getting a peek into people's real lives, and it's been interesting to watch.

An "aha! moment" since all this started.

This pandemic has taught me that all that matters is your family, friends and loved ones. The things that are supposed to matter shift into perspective. I am happy and healthy, and I don't take that for granted anymore. 

What's your theory on how this is going to play out?

We will have a new normal. This is a moment in time that we all, on a global level, will remember forever. This has truly affected everyone in the world, and it is my hope that it will make us all a little nicer, more compassionate and more human. The political polarization, the race perspectives, and the general angst we are feeling should bring us out to a better place. I believe, and I am hopeful, that this will all lead to a cleaning and a reset of society. We have to believe this is all happening for a reason—and we will be better for it!

See the full #WFH Diaries series here.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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