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Working Remotely
Making The Most of a Flex Work Environment

Prior to joining MD Financial Management, I worked at an office. I woke up every morning, (most before the sun) made myself presentable, got my kids sorted and ready for school. Once out the door I would begin my commute by dropping my kids at daycare and then making the normal 45 minute drive into the office. If I was having a good morning I was able to reward myself with a stop at Tim Hortons. This was a normal routine. I never questioned the flow of chaos that took over my mornings. I’m actually tired just thinking back to it all.

Fast forward to October 2014; I found myself at MD Financial Management interviewing for a new position. It felt odd to consider leaving a company where I was quite happy for 4 years, but it was time for a change. In addition to this new opportunity, I would also be given the opportunity to work alongside someone who I considered a mentor. Admittedly, I was nervous. I knew that MD had a much different work environment from what I had been accustomed to, where I would have no designated desk but instead the flexibility to work my own way, when and where I choose to. This had me really thinking – Is this for me? I made the leap anyway.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite a social person. I enjoy sharing a funny story, bouncing ideas off one another, and getting to know my fellow co-workers better. I also like the quiet too (which some may find shocking). I appreciate the time to buckle down and focus on the task at hand with no interruptions. The question I was stuck with was ‘how would I go from one environment to the other, and would I enjoy it?’. I won’t lie - the transition from office to home-based worker was not without its hurdles. Initially I missed the chaotic morning routine and the chance to chat face to face with co-workers and clients.

Rather than focus on the ‘what was’, I decided to embrace the ‘what is’. Here are some of the things I did to enable my transition to a fully-functional and overwhelmingly happy flex worker:

  • Dress for Success: Working from home doesn’t mean that I wear my pajamas all day. I realize people like to think we telecommuters do, but we don’t, or at least I don’t. I make it a habit to wake up early get myself ready and presentable and still get my 3 kids out the door in time for school.
    I find the early morning grooming routine essential to readying me for the day ahead.
  • Designate a Work Space: Have a designated space in your home where you can work without distraction, somewhere that you can shut the door at the end of the day and walk away from. If you have a demanding job, it can be difficult to walk away for some ‘me’ time, whether you work from home or an office. If you work from your laptop anywhere in the home, walking away from your work can become increasingly difficult. Whenever you catch a glimpse of that little square machine, your mind automatically goes to that mental checklist that still has items awaiting attention. The only thing you will achieve in the long run is burnout. Maintain a good work/life balance.
  • Get Out!: Seriously, get out. Working from home might give you cabin fever. If you have the luxury of heading into an office for a day, do it. A lot of cafes, bistros, and Java stops offer great Wi-Fi service, so spend a few hours there in a morning or afternoon. I’ve found a great spot near me where I go from time to time, and at first I thought I’d be alone, working surrounded by people meeting friends for a good catch up. Boy was I wrong; I’ve met some great people who are also teleworkers getting out for the same reasons. Let’s be real, as a Recruiter it’s also a great opportunity to network. So far I’ve met a Graphic Designer, Operations Manager, and an Account Exec. The possibility of who you could meet is endless. Another idea is to go for a walk on your lunch, or take mini-breaks to get outside. I live in Ottawa, so some days are less tempting than others (think December – March), but if you can get in even a 5-10 minute walk, go for it. Walking & sunshine can be a great way to decrease your stress.
  • Use Your Work Environment to Your Advantage: Working from home affords you more autonomy in your day to day. Here at MD I am fortunate to have a leadership team that supports flexibility. Avoiding the daily dreaded 5km/hour commute across the city has also given me many hours back in my week. Time which I now spend with my family.
  • Choose Your Background Noise Wisely: Some background noise is great, depending on what that noise is. I like to work to a beat, and I’ve downloaded some great music to have on in the background while I work away (Motown has been my favourite so far). It helps me focus. I would highly suggest you avoid working near a TV or having the temptation of Netflix being on in the background. This will only cause you severe distraction from your task at hand, especially if you are in the middle of binge watching a few seasons of a favourite show. After all, your work wouldn’t stream a Netflix or a TV show in the office, so why would you do it at home?
  • Eat Healthy: I have to be honest; I am still working on this one. When I am at the office I drink far more water and eat better than I do when I am at home. I truly believe that this comes down to planning. I plan ahead what I am bringing to the office for lunch, but when I am at home, I will grab the quickest and easiest thing I can. To avoid this bad habit I have put a water cooler and a small bar fridge in my work area. When I grocery shop I am able to buy some healthy snacks and store them in my ‘work only’ fridge. The water cooler helps me avoid being side tracked and grazing on something unhealthy or grabbing one of my husband’s coveted Pepsi’s. The less obvious benefit is it really helps me get in my 8 glasses or more of water per day.

Should you have the privilege of one day becoming a flex employee, I hope you’ll benefit from my experience and learnings and make flex work really work for you!