Increase Work/Life Balance — With no time wasted commuting and less distractions, you may find yourself having more time to devote to your personal life. When FlexJobs surveyed more than 4,000 respondents working from home in response to the coronavirus, 73% said that working from home improved their work-life balance.
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randi Zucker.
Randi Zucker is a consultant for high-profile individuals and businesses in establishing online businesses and e-Commerce ventures. She is also the founder of HomeschoolRoomies.com, a social network for homeschooling families, as well as NipEnvy, a line of women’s intimate comfortwear for all body types. When she’s not working at her home office, you can find her with her family (wearing gym clothes though she may not end up at the gym).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
I once dreamed of being the next Anna Wintour. I graduated with a degree in journalism and landed in a major publishing company in New York City. I was moved from their print department to online, and at first, I wasn’t thrilled. But that experience made me attractive to an emerging online magazine that was founded by trailblazing women (including Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Joni Evans). When you’re working at an online startup, you are given more responsibilities. A start-up environment can be a perfect fit for a young woman who is energetic and eager to learn all aspects of a particular business. Working at that Internet startup, planted that entrepreneurial seed in me, and led me to my career path today helping to build online-based companies.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In my early 20s I worked for an online magazine called wowOwow (it’s now PureWow). At that company, we had started an Internship program where I had interns who were double my age. These “interns” had recently lost obsolete jobs due to emerging technologies. They wanted to learn from me new online and social media skills; while I benefited from them by learning how to conduct myself in business, write more effectively and so much more by being around seasoned professionals. My story was similar to the Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro movie “The Intern.” The experience taught me that no matter how successful you are, you need to always be open to learning new skills. I find myself frequently signing up for webinars and taking online courses, even in subjects I show minor interest in.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In one of my college journalism classes, if your article had a person’s name misspelled, you received an automatic F — despite how well reported the piece may have been! It instilled in me a very important lesson to fact check, spell check, and to be detail oriented in all facets of your career and life. This really does apply to careers in technology development, where missing an end tag </> can destroy your entire website or app.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
As business leaders, you need to get to know your employees on a more spiritual and motivational level. You need to learn each individual’s passions and goals in life and within your organization. This is how you’ll properly reward someone’s accomplishments and keep them excited to keep up performance. One employer may be working with you in hopes of starting their own business; understanding that as a business leader is important. Rewarding that individual may be in terms of having them take on additional roles and paying for them to take training courses. Another employer may be more concerned about getting home in time for dinner with the kids, so you reward them to leave work early or to work from home on Fridays.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
When it comes to the main benefits of working remotely, the benefits will depend on the individual. For me personally:
(1) Less Commute Stress — Gone are the days of rushing to catch a subway or beat the traffic.
(2) Avoid Negative Energy of Certain Coworkers — You avoid sharing a workspace with a “Debbie Downer” whose negativity can impact your team’s mindset.
(3) Less “Water Cooler” Chat — Less wasting time chit chatting about “The Bachelor”.
(4) Possibility to Live Anywhere — You aren’t location dependent to live close to the office, so essentially you could work from an RV in the woods as long as you have strong WiFi.
(5) Increase Work/Life Balance — With no time wasted commuting and less distractions, you may find yourself having more time to devote to your personal life. When FlexJobs surveyed more than 4,000 respondents working from home in response to the coronavirus, 73% said that working from home improved their work-life balance.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
- Loneliness — It can get very quiet working alone from home.
- Discipline — You need to be a disciplined person to work remotely. You don’t have a boss literally standing over your shoulder to make sure you stay on task.
- Home Distractions — With the dishes in the sink and kids running around, you need to force yourself to not stop working to tend to chores or family.
- Time Management — When you’re working at home, it is easy to blend work and home. You may feel like you’re always “online”, or to the contrary, feel you’re not working enough.
- Team Communication — It can be a challenge to work as a team on projects, especially if you’re not technologically savvy with cloud storage or conferencing apps.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
- Loneliness — If you’re a leader at an organization, you could assign “Buddies” to have regularly timed conversations. It helps keep team members on task and feel more connected. I actually got myself a dog the first years I went fully remote.
- Discipline — It’s important to know what time of day you feel most productive and schedule important and time sensitive tasks during that window. Create a schedule that aligns with your energy levels, allots breaks, and gives you a hard start and end time.
- Home Distractions — It’s okay to set aside time during your day to load that dish washer and play with the kids. Create a designated workspace that is away from your kitchen, children and any other areas that usually require your attention. I also recommend setting up home cameras that can connect to your phone, so if you are curious what is causing the dog to bark, you can check through your phone without having to get up from your office every time… Between my ADT, Ring and Yi Home camera systems, I can see from my phone what’s happening inside and outside of my house at all times and get alerts. Once you get up from that desk it takes much longer to get back into that chair and re-focused.
- Time Management — Once you create a schedule for yourself, you need to become a task master. Asana is a project management system I use for all my work. In conjunction, I use an app called Toggl which tracks my time. If I’m allocating an hour of work for a particular client or task, I will use Toggl to keep me in check.
- Team Communication — I highly recommend training your organization on tools and systems to help with virtual and team collaboration. Some tools I recommend for remote work include: Zoom, Asana, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Drive and Google Calendars.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
Take note of when you are most productive. I’m a morning person so I tackle my most important and time sensitive tasks in the morning. I also encourage breaks and exercise. A 2014 study concluded that the most productive employees worked for 52 minutes, then took a 17 minute break.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
To prevent anyone feeling frustrated getting used to a new system, make it required for team members to be trained on the telecommunication tools that your organization is using. I also encourage leaders to set up a “Buddy System” where you can pair two co-workers to check in with one another daily and be accountability partners. This’ll keep them productive and avoid loneliness. Ask your team members if this new environment is proving challenging and create solutions to help.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
It’s very important to figure out what makes someone tick. You will need to continue to have reward systems in place that are meaningful to that individual. Gifting someone Yankees tickets when they don’t enjoy baseball, will not boost that person’s spirits.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to see more leaders embrace remote work, flexible schedules, and encourage entrepreneurship. Empower employees to create individual schedules that harness when they’re most productive and balance work with life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
When one door closes, another door opens. You experience setbacks and make mistakes. You need to learn from them and move on. You become stronger and wiser with every door that shuts in your face.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Clubhouse Randi Zucker
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success
Thank you for having me! Cheers to your success as well.