For my more than 100 employees, it does not matter whether they participate in our regular online meetings from a coworking space, home office or from the beach, or in which country they are currently located. My IT and service company works 100% remotely. Everyone is completely flexible in terms of time and location-independent, and they also use it. Just not me. I am always at my home in Groß-Gerau, Germany, and lie in bed most of the time. I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Most people probably cannot imagine how long a day and even longer a night can be if there is nothing you can do but lie in bed most of the time, like me. But today I am in the fortunate position of having meaningful and productive work despite these limitations. It’s been a long journey.
Success and illness
In 1969 I was born in Lahore, Pakistan. When I was fifteen I immigrated to Sweden. A year later I came to Germany. In 1993, at the age of twenty-four, I started my own company. We got to know early the benefits, but also the risks, of remote work with international teams and we became very successful in it. In 2007 I became ill. I felt pain all the time and I was infinitely exhausted. I have been to a large number of doctors, specialists, alternative practitioners, and hospitals. Nobody could detect a diagnosis for me. That’s why at some point it was said that I was suffering from depression. For years I received corresponding therapies and had to take antidepressants, which gave me additional pain.
Then one day I happened to see a documentary about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) on TV. I thought they were telling my story! That changed my life radically. Now I finally knew what I had and, with the help of doctors and a self-help group, was able to organise my life accordingly. There is still no therapy for CFS, but I know what to look out for and can save myself from additional and unnecessary suffering. If my health allows it, I will work sitting or lying down. I mainly take care of the strategic work in the company. I often use my cell phone to write notes or to communicate with employees. Talking uses up a lot of energy and often results in severe stomach pains. So I try to reduce it to the bare minimum. One positive aspect of my illnesses is that it has made me a specialist in remote work.
Commitment to Pakistan
One thing is clear to me: I live in the best country in the world, where all options are open to me. But there are very many people in this world who struggle every day to get enough food on their plates for their families. This is also the case in Pakistan, the country where I was born. Despite a good education, many people there have little chance to get a well-paid job. That’s why I plan, from my bed in Germany, to develop the economically underdeveloped city in Pakistan, Rabwah, into an IT hub for remote work and to create a thousand new remote jobs there in Pakistan over the next five years – www.1000jobs4rabwah.com I would also like to launch a non-profit foundation into which I would like to contribute a large part of my assets.
Never give up!
Despite my illness, today, by the grace of God, I live a happy and very grateful life. With my example, I would like to encourage the chronically ill and people with disabilities not to give up and support them in using the possibilities of remote work for themselves. That’s why I decided to talk publicly about my personal story, my illness, and my future plans and produced a clip – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZxDExiqsAc&t=2s I hope that it encourages many people and gives an impulse for their own lives.