Katie Squires-Thompson, Chief Strategy Officer At Women In Capital Markets (WCM), On Working Remotely

With a significant number of people working from home in the past few (and coming) weeks, we thought it’d be a great time to share our conversation with Katie Squires-Thompson. Katie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Women in Capital Markets (WCM), an organization committed to accelerating gender diversity in Canada. We chatted about her decision to move in pursuit of fulfillment in her personal life (in addition to professional life) and she shared some helpful remote work tips that we can all use. WCM’s head office is in Toronto, and Katie lives and works remotely in Squamish, British Columbia. 

Tell us a bit about your decision to work remotely and how you asked for that change?

“In my first year at WCM, I had the chance to attend many different events and coaching sessions about career management and advancement and was exposed to career advice that normally would maybe take someone decades to get. There were so many learnings that came out of that but one of the big takeaways that stuck with me was the importance of asking for what you want. I think it’s always been a challenge to reconcile my professional life and my personal life. I do consider myself to be ambitious and my career is an important pillar in my life but at the same time, I also hold a lot of space for my personal life and interests, many of which revolve around spending time outside in nature skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and walking in the forest. While Toronto and other big cities offer lots of career opportunities, it was difficult for me to live the lifestyle that I wanted.  I’ve always really loved BC, and I saw an opportunity to bring this job with me out west. My boss was actually really excited for me and it was a pretty natural progression.”

“One of the big takeaways that stuck with me was the importance of asking for what you want.”

What are your top tips for someone who’s just starting to work remotely? 

  • Set up a clear routine for yourself
    “Treat it like it’s a normal job. Establish clear work hours for yourself, and set goals and priorities for your day. Have a good, comfortable workspace that’s ergonomic and conducive for focus.”
  • Take time to build and maintain relationships with your team
    “It’s important to keep your network alive. Face to face,  it’s much easier to build strong relationships and establish a connection. When you’re working remotely, it’s so important to make an extra effort and take the time to stay connected with your team, communicate regularly and invest in building relationships.”
  • Define your workday and take breaks
    “It’s really easy for your personal life to blend in with work when you’re working from home. It’s important to me to keep these as separate as I can, so I give myself very clear start and end times for my workday. The focus should be output and on results, not time spent in the chair. I learned that our bodies have a natural rest-activity rhythm, known as our Ultradian Rhythm. Just like our Circadian rhythm which is our sleep/wake cycle, we also have an internal cycle of rest-activity, and I notice that structuring my workday to support this can really increase my productivity, efficiency and well-being. I’ll do an hour and a half to two hours of head-down, undistracted work, set my timer, and then take a 10-20 minute break where I get up and move around. Read about it!  Also, something helpful for me is a transitional activity – after I sign off for the day, I’ll get outside for a walk or physical activity to clear my head and transition into my home life afterwards. It’s easy to feel like you need to be available all the time, but just like when you’re in the office, it’s important to take breaks and set boundaries. 

With regards to flexible work situations, do you think things are moving in the right direction? 

“I really hope we shift towards more flexible work cultures and practices. I think they’re a really invaluable part of any work culture and it’s definitely something I’ll be seeking out with any future jobs. It’s a way to allow your employees to live the lives that they want while still being able to participate in a career path that they’re really good at. I think a lot of it is being realistic about the challenges – we all need to recognize that this is a privilege and to take it seriously. Whether you’re starting a new family, you’re caring for an elderly parent, or whatever your personal life needs are, flexible work is a way to allow employees to allow employees to accommodate those personal needs without having to opt out.

Working from home all the time is definitely not without its challenges. It can be lonely, isolating, even inhibit your career development…it’s not for everyone! Ideally, companies can give employees the option to work where is best for them.”

“Our bodies have a natural rest-activity rhythm, known as our Ultradian Rhythm. Just like our Circadian rhythm which is our sleep/wake cycle, we also have an internal cycle of rest-activity, and I notice that structuring my workday to support this can really increase my productivity, efficiency and well-being.”

What’s your team focused on for 2020?

“We’re really focused on promoting equality, which means shifting the dialogue away from diversity or a women-focused approach towards building work practices and cultures that are equal, fair and objective for everyone. It’s not as much about attracting or hiring women. The women are there and they are just as qualified, talented and ambitious, but when there are systemic barriers in the workplace that create an unequal or unfair experience, or prevent certain groups of employees from having the same experience as the dominant group, that’s incredibly frustrating and I think that’s a barrier to gender parity. We need to ask ourselves – ‘how can we transform workplaces so that everyone can have an equal experience and we can accommodate for a diverse talent pool?’”

Learn more about WCM at https://wcm.ca/about

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