Smart Work Story With Eirene Cofounder & CEO Mallory Greene
Mallory is the Co-founder and CEO of Eirene, an innovative funeral services company based in Toronto. Eirene is making waves in the afterlife arrangements space by allowing users to plan an affordable cremation completely online without the worry of needing to shop around, deal with up-selling or in-person consultations. Mallory also worked at Wealthsimple as part of their founding team where she touched everything from marketing to HR and communications. She knows what it takes to build a company from the ground up, rally others around a mission, and grow a sustainable business. Going against the grain of the traditional definition of productivity and embracing what a productive day looks like to her is how she makes smart work.
How would you say work changed for you in the last year?
It’s changed completely. I’ve had to set a lot of boundaries because there is no separation from work and home life, and it’s been challenging but crucial to my mental health to set those boundaries. I've had a lot more time for my personal life and there's so many advantages to flexibility, but I now also understand the value of in-person meetings. I ask myself “how can I combine the positive traditional elements of work to be suitable to the business I’m now building and the type of life that I want to have?” The last year has definitely changed my perception on what I want work to look like for me.
You work in afterlife arrangements, which naturally requires quite a bit of sensitivity and has been more of a traditional, in-person experience for as far back as we can remember. What’s it like to navigate that space right now?
What I’ve found as I’m building this business is that when someone passes away, people don’t actually want to go in and speak to someone they’ve never met for an hour long conversation about end of life arrangements. My business exists so that people can make the decisions they need to quickly and get back to what’s important, which is being with loved ones, starting the grieving process and mourning their loss. And that’s actually what people are looking for - they don’t want a huge disruption at such a personal time. Just like the future of work is changing, that’s also reflected in the funeral process, which we’re changing to be accessible and convenient (a totally different approach), but the pandemic has forced every funeral provider to become more flexible on how arrangements are made, so it's really not that traditional process anymore.
How do you stay motivated to do your best work?
I’m very passionate about helping families during difficult times, and when I speak to people or see their reviews, that really motivates me to remember that I’m making high quality death care affordable and accessible to everyone. What motivates me is hearing the conversations from people using our product, which is important and needs to exist, especially during the difficulties of the pandemic. I always knew that I wanted to build my own business and having that power to build a brand that I really love and put my all into, that’s very motivating to me.
How do you balance your work life with the rest of your life?
I am learning that I need to set very strict boundaries in order to not only balance work and life but also, when it comes to transitioning back into a post pandemic world. If I don't set those boundaries now, it will become increasingly difficult to make that transition. On days that I don’t feel motivated, I just don’t push myself. I know it’s not going to be quality work. And on the days that I am super focused, I can work a 12 hour day and still be able to output more. It’s about being in tune with yourself and listening to how you’re feeling.
Is there anything in particular that you love about working remotely?
Oh my gosh, yes! I’m definitely a remote worker. I always wanted to work independently and for me the biggest piece is flexibility. My aspiration in life is to have flexibility and freedom - not from work - I love working and it's a part of my life and always will be, but it’s about the fact that if one day I have kids and they have a soccer game at 4pm - I can go. It allows for so much more time to do the things you love to do and be with the people you love. Less commutes and less distractions - it’s very suitable to my lifestyle.
Is there anything in particular that you don’t like about working remotely - how do you deal with that?
I see now the value of in-person interactions and human connection. Sometimes you just need to be in a room together and you need a whiteboard, because that’s the most efficient way to get something done. So even though I’m an introvert and I love being by myself and working on my own, I know that human interaction is really important. I never thought I would say this, but I definitely miss in-person meetings and interactions with other people that I work with, knowing of course that there is a balance to be found between those two.
What personal strengths have you been tapping into more with all the changes you’ve experienced in the last year?
I would say I’m very structured, which has been very beneficial in a time with so much ambiguity and no one watching over me to make sure I get the work done. I have the same routine everyday and that’s really helped push our business forward overall. I would say the other piece of that is just motivation - I’m a self-motivated person. I’m self-disciplined and I have very high expectations of myself. I also feel like I’ve developed a lot more empathy and patience in the last year, and tapping into that has been important for me as a leader.
How good are you at asking for help?
I am a very honest, straightforward person so if I need something I’ll ask, no hesitation. My biggest challenge will always be that I like doing things myself, so I’m not necessarily great at delegating tasks. But you have to be good at that as a business owner, so that’s something I’m actively working on.
What does mindfulness mean to you in the age of remote work?
Mindfulness means being really in tune and aware of how you’re feeling, what your body is telling you, what your mind is telling you - and tapping into those feelings and also just kind of rolling with it. I see it as being very self-aware. It’s been difficult to be mindful during this time, but I utilize therapy as a way of navigating emotions and tapping into what I’m feeling. I’m a big advocate of therapy.
What do you think it means to be emotionally available and how important is your overall well being?
This goes back to the point of empathy and being aware of people’s different circumstances. We all have different things going on in our lives, and have no separation between work and personal life. If one of my employees' dog dies, or they’re having an unproductive day, giving them space and being empathetic. Ultimately it comes back to this idea that we're all human. I don't think the future of work has a clear separation between work and home life - I don’t think that’s the reality of the world we live in now, and there's so much overlap. So we really need to empower people to do their best work while recognizing that they are still human.
How has your relationship to work changed?
It’s changed in a healthy way. At the beginning of the pandemic there weren't clear boundaries but I really did want to build a remote first business, which made me realize that I would have to define who I want that to operate that business with, what our shared values were going to be, and ultimately figuring out how to set the tone of what the next few years could look like. So my relationship to work has changed for the better over the past few months, because I want to build a sustainable business, but I also want to work in a sustainable way. I think that stems from my relationship to work in the past, and realizing what was and wasn't working.
How do you make smart work?
I love that. I see my life now as having so much integration between personal and work life - and for me it’s all about balance. Having a clear understanding of what a productive day is (to me), whether business or personal, is the key. I ask myself what I want to get done on a certain day, and that’s what I actively work toward. That’s when your “work-life flow” occurs. Defining what a productive day looks like to me is what helps me make smart work.