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Smart Work Story With Shopify Senior Recruiter Adel Jalabi

Adel grew up in Montreal, went to college in Waterloo and decided to pack-up and move abroad for several years to work and live in Dubai, Doha and Seoul. Working in recruitment for various industries including media, veterinary services, and now tech. He recently relocated from Toronto to Kelowna with his partner and enjoys hiking, reading, traveling and a new found obsession for BC wine! Adel recently joined Shopify, a ‘digital by design’ company that empowers employees to design work around life, not the other way around.

How would you say work changed for you in the last year?

Working remotely full time definitely impacted me. I used to work at an office and being forced to work completely from home was difficult, mainly because I had nowhere to go. There was nowhere to go with a coworker, and I lost the routine of driving. I found it hard to navigate all the changes initially, but as the pandemic progressed I realized working remotely was actually a lot better for me. I was more productive and I think once I got over that initial shock of ‘what’s happening?’, I started to see the value in working remotely.

How do you stay motivated to do your best work?

I’m in a relatively new role right now. I left my last job five months ago to join Shopify. In my previous role I focused on positive thinking and was always looking for the silver lining. But another way was through a lot of internal reflection. Being at home, having more time to myself gave me time to reflect on what I want out of my career, where I see myself growing and developing and really focusing on self-care and self-help. It had become a blur, working at home sitting at the kitchen table and still being in the same space when work was over, so yoga and other activities focused on self-care really helped me.

How do you find harmony when working remotely?

In all honesty, I wasn't able to find harmony because I was very overworked and the expectations were insane during the pandemic. I had to leave my last role and go to a company where I knew there was a little bit more emphasis on taking time for yourself. I did a lot of reflecting initially and realized, being in a startup was not something I wanted at this point in my career, especially where because we were understaffed and overworked - some of us working eleven hour days because being at home makes it hard to draw a line between work time and free time. So I had to change something and the only thing I could change was my job, so I went to Shopify, which is completely remote - so you get to design your life around work and not the other way around.

What’s your favourite thing about working remotely?

Not having to commute, being in my own home space, being able to go out with my dogs and being able to really disconnect. If I have a stressful meeting,I can go into my space, sit on my couch, or walk my dogs. At the office you’re stuck there the whole day. I think the main thing I really value is being able to set boundaries, because when you’re not in the same physical space as others you have to be more intentional with how you communicate. I’m a lot more productive when I’m working remotely because the pressure to drop what you are doing when someone comes to your desks or wants to have a last minute meeting has been eliminated and people are more respectful of boundaries.

What do you find challenging about remote work?

The social aspect of remote work has definitely been challenging. - I was used to spending the first fifteen or twenty mins of my day making coffee or chit chatting with people. Waking up and just going to the next room to work, and not interacting with anyone is the main thing that I don't’ like about working remotely.

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 communicating better. I’m great at communicating in person, but really being a lot more intentional around where and how I communicate, whether that’s using new design tools or email templates, just being a little bit more thoughtful around my style of interaction. It’s also hard to build your leadership skills, so I’m working on that, and learning that leading by example takes on a different meaning in a remote setting.

How good are you at asking for help?

I believe as a remote worker you have to be a lot more intentional, like I said earlier and that includes requests and asking for things. I don’t want to be perceived as someone whos’ asking for something every five minutes, so a lot of times I have felt like I’ve had less of an opportunity to ask questions the way we can in a physical office space. I try to leave my questions to the end of a meeting, or go the extra mile to try to find the answers myself. It’s a bit more time consuming, but has allowed me to explore more and find solutions on my own, which frees up other people and values their time as well.

What does mindfulness mean to you in the age of remote work?

I think mindfulness for me is focusing on one task at a time. I think a lot of people wear their multitasking abilities as a badge, but in my opinion that's wrong ( I used to be like that myself). Working on a bunch of things at once might feel like it’s a good idea, but I remote work has taught me to dedicate my attention to one task or one person at a time so I can be present.

Do you think it’s important to be emotionally aware and available in today’s working climate?

It’s definitely a lot harder to read people when you're working remotely. I might interpret a message online as someone being annoyed with me, so emotional awareness is about understanding that everyone has a different style of communicating and we need to remember not to react based on our own feelings. So awareness for me is taking a step back and rationalizing so that I can be sure I’m aware of how I process personally, without letting that get in the way of how I interpret messages from other people while taking their emotions into consideration, too.

How do you Make Smart Work?

Working smart is about being mindful and intentional about the work you're doing, especially when working from home where you can easily forget to move away from your work area to enjoy a meal or a coffee. I also set boundaries for myself around breaks, so I’ll take my dogs out for a walk, or watch an episode of a show I like. I make sure I relax and take my mind off of things so that refocusing is easier. Particularly in my line of work, breaks are imperative because I spend a majority of my day speaking with people, which leads to a lot of screen time and ‘zoom fatigue’, as they say. I also have a rule where I take 30 minutes before I begin my day, and 30 minutes before I end my day, without any meetings. That’s a chunk of time which is just for me and helps a lot.

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