Boundaries. When your work computer or phone is in your home, you tend to keep looking at it, work longer hours and never truly give yourself a break. You’re up early so you go online early, but you still work over 8 hours. You do more because you want to ensure your employer sees your productivity and it’s very easy to go overboard.
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Darazio.
Tara Darazio is a copywriter and the Owner of A Passion For The Pen where she works with clients to write compelling and authentic content. She is also the host of the Let’s Meet For Copy podcast where she shares content tips and welcomes writers to share insight about their writing process. She collects vintage typewriters, is always writing a novel, and you can most likely find her laughing, drinking coffee or spending time with her husband and two boys.
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 was working in the corporate world in Marketing and PR for about six years, when a complicated pregnancy landed me in the hospital on bedrest. After spending 35 days there, then giving birth to our premature son, my entire view on life shifted. Knowing I needed to be home with our son, I made the leap to freelance. I knew as a writer it would be easy to do the work from home, but I had no idea it would turn into a long-term lifestyle.
I always thought I would go back to the office, but as the years went on, I realized how much I loved the entrepreneurial path. After a few years of figuring it all out, I launched my copywriting business in 2014 and a writing podcast in 2018. It’s now been close to a decade since making the decision to go out on my own and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Thinking I would mainly work with local clients. It turns out one of the connections I made early on would introduce me to an entire network in a different state and most of my clients hail from that same part of the world today. The power of connection is remarkable, especially at the beginning of your business and I always wonder had I not met this person, what my business would look like today.
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?
It’s funny I thought working for yourself meant more time and less stress. Sure, the freedom is amazing, but you work harder and days are longer than you ever expect. It’s often feast or famine when it comes to the entrepreneur life and you need to be smart when it comes to saving money and spending money.
I also learned early on the main obstacle in my business was myself. If I allowed my own fears to stop me, I wouldn’t succeed to my highest potential. It took me a long time to get to the place I am today. We all fear putting ourselves out into the world, but we need to seize opportunities and watch what happens when we do just that.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Be supportive and understand situations. No one wants to miss the deadline or forget about the call or print the typo, but it happens. Tell your employees or team members how much you value their work and feedback and let them know it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as it’s a learning lesson.
When people know they are appreciated, they want to come to work, they want to do their best. It’s very simple. We are all living lives and handling outside stress when it comes to families, health, finances, etc. and having a company culture that allows you to live your life and also get your work done without sacrificing one for the other is key.
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?
Flexibility is a big one. I’m not a morning person, for example, so I rarely start my day before 9 am. Getting this extra time in the morning for that cup of coffee and jumping in when I’m ready is a huge motivator. No commute time is allowing many people to have that extra time in the morning, too. Many businesses seem to be shifting to a more relaxed schedule and allowing employees to get work done in the hours that fit best into their lives. I hope that’s a trend moving forward.
Working remotely is actually less distracting in many ways. This of course depends on who else is at your home. We are at an odd time when your home might be also be filled with children doing online school, younger children or even other family members. But if you are working alone in your home, distractions do tend to be fewer. No one is knocking on the office door, there are no meetings or office events to attend.
As far as opportunity, there are many!
You are home for lunch, so you spend less money and probably eat healthier because you have access to your own kitchen. You might even make your own coffee instead of buying one daily.
You might be able to take your child to or from school, attend an event mid-day or go to an appointment, since your schedule allows for more flexibility.
You are home when the repair person comes, or the furniture delivery is dropped off, so you don’t lose time at the office to handle life tasks.
You can sit on your own porch and read a book for self-care during lunch. Or go for a run on your mid-day break because there is no commute time stopping you from getting outside.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
1. The rest of your household. Especially right now, we can’t control who else is home. This is a big challenge. When my son has an internet issue during remote school, I have to stop what I’m doing to help him. When my spouse is talking on the phone for work and I am too, we have to figure out how to be in different spaces so as not to distract the other.
2. Boundaries. When your work computer or phone is in your home, you tend to keep looking at it, work longer hours and never truly give yourself a break. You’re up early so you go online early, but you still work over 8 hours. You do more because you want to ensure your employer sees your productivity and it’s very easy to go overboard.
3. Technology and supplies. There is no IT department to come look at your computer right away, no supply closet to get more ink for the printer or batteries for the mouse. You are handling these tasks on your own, adding more to your to-do list every day.
4. Loss of connection with people. It’s easy to feel isolated working at home. There is no hello in the hallway or birthday lunch in the break room. It takes a lot more effort to remain motivated and connected.
5. Feeling disconnected from your role. You might find yourself wondering if this job is what you really want to do. You aren’t in the office day-to-day, seeing the company vision ongoing, feeling the positive vibes from the work environment, etc.
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?
My kids know when mom is on the phone, they need to be quiet. But, of course, this doesn’t always happen. For me, I’ve been working at home for a decade, so I’ve learned to tell my clients, or whomever I’m on the phone with, that my kids are home and they might hear them. 99% of people are very understanding and often it kicks off a conversation about their own kids and families. If your spouse or partner is also working at home, make sure you are in separate parts of the house.
Try not to work after a certain time of day. If you get in the habit of answering emails a few moments after they arrive just because you can, people will continue to expect that behavior. Limit your work hours because boundaries are necessary for your wellbeing.
I’ve lost internet plenty of times when I was supposed to be on a Zoom call, so I just moved it to my phone. If your Wi-Fi is all you’re relying on at home, look into getting a hot spot from your phone provider or additional ways to stay connected. Or, at least have a process in place when something does happen, to let your employer or team know. Also, create a small supply closet of your own with anything you might need, so you aren’t running to the store every other day.
You need to stay connected to people. Jump on a Zoom with colleagues and make sure you talk more than just office talk. Meet outside the office for a coffee if you can. Chat on Slack or other messenger channels during the day. Encourage each other and be a support.
Be sure to check in and remember why you do what you do. You are valued, even if you aren’t walking through the company doors. If you are feeling a disconnect, reach out to your supervisor or mentor. Being open and honest will do a lot more good than holding in anxious feelings.
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?
Set boundaries. When your office and your home are one in the same, it’s very easy to constantly feel “on.” Try not to check emails or look at the work computer in off hours. Even if you own your own business, set boundaries for your self-care.
Take screen breaks. At home, you might go from computer, to phone, to TV, never giving your eyes a break. Exercise and walk around. Go outside. Take a drive. Call someone.
Find other people working from home and chat about the challenges you face together. Often, someone will provide feedback that is really helpful or share a resource you weren’t aware of previously.
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?
Thinking that everyone is always on the same page. Stay in constant communication. Not everyone will be as comfortable with technology or have access to equipment. Some people will be alone, some will have kids at home, etc. Talk to each other and make sure everyone is set up for success. Use Slack or other chats to stay connected during the day. It also eliminates unnecessary emails.
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?
Stay positive. It’s really easy to get down and wonder when everything will be back to normal, but getting creative, planning things in a new way, coming up with practices that are good not only during the pandemic, but moving forward are vital. Give everyone a voice and if you’re a leader, listen.
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. 🙂
Sharing the value of writing and its lasting impression on the world. Whether it’s a blog, a journal, a speech, we need to hear about other people’s experiences, as well as share our own. Words last forever and can make such a powerful impact.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I want to put a ding in the universe.” — Steve Jobs
We are all here trying to make an impact. I think that quote just perfectly sums up what many of us want to do. We want to change something, leave the world a better place. I know that’s my goal.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success