Our interview guest today is the German remote company outsourcing4work. Here’s what you can learn from the interview with CEO and founder K. Nadeem Arif:
Who outsourcing4work are and what they do
CEO Nadeem’s personal reasons behind working remotely
How remote work is conducted within the company
Where to find current job vacancies, and lots more
WHO ARE outsourcing4work AND WHAT MAKES THE GERMAN REMOTE COMPANY SO SPECIAL?
outsourcing4work was founded by K. Nadeem Arif in 1993. We have evolved from a software developer to a human resources consultant and global intermediary for IT professionals from India.
Current number of employees: we have over 100 employees from 17 different countries. We have been working 100% remotely for about 10 years.
Remote Factor: 100%, fully remote since 2011
Why outsourcing4work? -> As a 100% remote company, we are specialists in the field of digital collaboration. With access to more than 5000 IT professionals in India and over 100 employees around the world, we have built up years of experience and continue to analyse and optimise digital processes. In our own corporate culture, we are always finding new ways to develop remote working models and bring employees and customers closer together.
INTERVIEW WITH K. NADEEM ARIF, FOUNDER AND CEO OF THE GERMAN REMOTE COMPANY ’outsourcing4work’
Hello Nadeem, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Aside from being the owner and CEO of outsourcing4work, you’re also facing another challenge. Could you explain a little more?
I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in 2007. Unfortunately, the cause(s) of CFS are still unknown. I visited numerous hospitals, doctors, specialists, and alternative practitioners, but none of them could find anything wrong with me. As is so often the case, doctors told me that I was suffering from depression because they couldn’t find anything wrong. As a result, I went through years of therapy and took antidepressants. These therapies and antidepressants caused me a great deal of extra pain and suffering. In hindsight, this could certainly have been avoided. After 9 years of wrong treatments, I saw a TV report one day that changed my life drastically. This report was about a rare disease called CFS.
Since the causes of CFS are still unknown, there is unfortunately no treatment at present. This means there is no foreseeable possibility of finding a cure or improvement. I am dependent on various medications. For example, when my chronic pain exceeds a certain threshold, I have to take painkillers. CFS has also damaged my internal clock and so I haven’t been able to sleep at all at night for many years. I’ve been taking strong sleeping pills for many years in order to get any sleep at all at night. During the day, I have to sleep at least once or twice to try and keep the pain and exhaustion at a bearable level.
How did you manage to build a successful business despite your illness?
I live in the best country in the world – Germany – where there are endless possibilities available to me. I benefit from the best health care system I know and live a good life here despite my serious illness. However, there are so many people in this world who struggle every day to even feed their families. This is sadly the case in the country of my birth, Pakistan. Many people there hardly have a chance to get a good job to support their families even though they’re well-educated. I’d like to play a small part in giving some of these people in Pakistan the prospect of a well-paid and future-oriented job on the international market.
My expertise in remote work is tailor-made for this. I’ve briefly outlined my motivation and plan on this page: https://1000jobs4rabwah.com/. My main goal is to develop the economically very backward town of Rabwah (Chenab Nagar) in Pakistan, where I lived for a few years before I emigrated, into an IT hub for remote work. I plan to create 1000 new jobs in Pakistan over the next 5 years.
You can find out more about me and how I turned my disability into an ability in this short video
With this background in mind, what do you think is the key advantage of remote work?
For severely disabled people, working on a computer in a home office can be a real benefit. If their chances of finding a suitable working environment have been hampered in the past, then remote work offers significant advantages. Flexible working hours and individual working conditions mean that this new era of ‘teleworking’ offers a wealth of opportunities for disabled workers. Until now, the physical journey to work has been difficult, if not impossible, for people with illnesses and disabilities.
Finding remote employment is now proving much easier for them with this home office alternative. Remote work for people with an illness or disability means they no longer have to worry about getting to work. It’s no longer an issue if they are bed-bound or find it difficult to move around every day.
Career paths that may once have been out of reach are now more accessible than ever before. Remote workers with a handicap no longer feel excluded from the world of work. Having a suitable time and attendance schedule allows them to better accommodate their needs and also work very successfully.
The possibility of remote work also creates a corporate culture in a company that honours their individual strengths. People with disabilities often bring their own advantages as they are used to dealing with new things. Ill and disabled people clearly enjoy setting their own work schedule and feel empowered as a result. This reduces staff absence and stress, while improving the productivity and efficiency of a company. Working in a time-oriented way is not unusual for people with chronic illnesses as they are often forced to adhere to fixed schedules.
When workers can enjoy a healthy work-life balance in the home office, productivity increases and mental health improves. This is something that businesses have had to recognise. People with a disability have long advocated for their inclusion in the remote workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has finally moved things in the right direction.
One of the hardest social burdens is the stigma attached to people with disabilities. They are categorically seen as being incapable and society associates them with a constant need for help. This lack of cultivation often makes work inaccessible to disabled people. They will, of course, go through difficult times because of their illness or disability. Their work may be impossible or commuting could be problematic. They could struggle with giving verbal or immediate responses. But working in a home office provides enough flexibility to address all of these difficulties.
What does remote collaboration look like at outsourcing4work?
Our employees are not tied to a company location but decide for themselves where they want to work from. This allows us to employ dedicated and independent working people from all over the world, regardless of where their time is usually spent. For our 100 or so employees from 17 countries, 100% remote means that their work and contact with the company takes place completely online. This also includes communication with colleagues; we exchange ideas daily in our virtual coffee break and organise virtual after-work events. We work with cloud-based tools for the most part, with Microsoft products. For example, we use MS Teams for our daily discussions between different departments. We manage our tasks in MS Planner and for larger projects we use AzureDevOps. Employees can organise their day with MS ToDo. This tool also provides an interface with MS Planner, which means that tasks are not lost on us and on each individual. We work with Personio and Recruitee for employee management.
To what extent are employees free to decide where they work from and in which time zone?
They must be present during the company’s daily opening hours. We’ve agreed on flexible working hours, so as a rule each employee should work at least 6 hours within CET time (German office hours).
What other advantages do employees enjoy with outsourcing4work? Why should I choose to work for this company?
We have good communication among colleagues – we exchange ideas daily during our virtual coffee break and organise virtual after-work events. In addition, each team starts the day with a daily meeting based on the “rocks & roses” principle. In this meeting, challenges and positive experiences or successes from the previous day are discussed. A structured daily meeting gives all employees the chance to share ideas and everyone is aware of what is planned for that day. Subsequent team meetings are arranged for certain areas, if necessary.
How does outsourcing4work manage to maintain such a strong corporate culture when its employees are spread across the globe?
Communication, transparency, and the use of the right software tools are the decisive factors.
Social isolation and burnout are common risks when it comes to remote work. What do you do to combat these risks?
We allow our employees to have a paid virtual coffee break at set times every day. This is when we get to know each other, discuss current topics, and interact on a personal level. We also regularly invite people to remote, whole company meetings. The ice is quickly broken with funny questions and employee quizzes, which everyone can take part in. There’s also the fun channel, where our employees have the opportunity to meet virtually outside working hours and, for example, review the day together at an after-work event. The fun channel provides an internal solution without any constraints or extensive rules, thanks to which they can network and share ideas. But we leave the content design to the participants themselves, of course.
What kind of remote jobs does the company typically offer? And where can current vacancies be found?
You can find current vacancies on our website under Jobs. We’re currently looking for 25 new employees such as a Digital Marketing Manager and several Virtual Assistants.
How does the application process work in your company when you hire new remote employees?
We use a software programme called “Recruitee” for the entire recruiting process. Once we’ve received the applications and screening, we conduct a qualification call and another screening. Depending on their qualifications, the candidates are then invited to a personal online interview via MS Teams.
Has anything changed in terms of remote work and hiring since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic?
Since we were already set up for remote work when we went into the pandemic, it didn’t really impact our business success. We were still able to double our workforce in 2020.
Do you also recruit international staff?
Yes, we are mainly made up of international employees from 17 different countries, as we are a 100% remote company.
Where do you see the future of remote work?
Before the pandemic, many companies believed that good, skilled work only happened on their internal premises. Remote work and its flexible working hours were just a myth to them. That was until 2020, when COVID-19 challenged this belief and it became perfectly compatible with the need for social distancing. Everyone has now been forced to adopt mobile working structures, from small businesses to corporate giants. The world has turned into a gigantic remote experiment. To what extent remote working will continue to work in the future is anyone’s guess. According to a survey, financial services companies expect that about 60% of their workforce will work from home once a week after COVID-19, compared to just 29% before the pandemic.
Since most companies have switched to remote working, the percentage of employees in home offices has increased dramatically. This has positively influenced employees’ attitudes towards remote work and they would still be happy to work in a home office even after the pandemic. There’s no doubt that flexible working hours are a blessing. Remote workers are not pressured by fixed working hours, but instead can work at a time when they feel the most productive. According to Chief Talent Officer Peter May of the law firm Baker McKenzie, productivity has generally increased since the start of the pandemic. The reason being that there are no commuting times, but rather adjusted working hours and less stress at home. However, some companies believe that ‘being relaxed’ is the opposite of ‘being engaged’. In their view, employees need to be in a productive office environment in order to work successfully. Remote workers, however, believe they are more efficient when they’re in a relaxed and comfortable environment.
Many companies who had their doubts about remote working created a work structure that eventually proved to be problematic. Their work schedule was packed with unnecessary video conferences and meetings. And these pointless interactions put a strain on employees, as many workers also have to take care of their families in addition to their work commitments.
With the introduction of remote work, asynchronous communication gained importance since it doesn’t require direct contact. This means that updates or tasks are transmitted toteam members where it’s not essential that colleagues respond immediately. In addition, asynchronous communication enables new ways of working in the home office. This is because the sending and receiving of data is staggered but without blocking the process. The remote working model encourages companies to judge their employees on productive performance rather than their presence in the office. Measuring productivity by working hours doesn’t accurately reflect the achievement of goals. Remote workers can focus on being efficient and achieving milestones rather than on the time they spend at work.
In partnership with Mental Health America, Flexjobs collected data from over 800 workers on the impact of remote work on their wellbeing and mental health. According to this data, 27% of employees without flexible working hours said their mental health was poor, compared to 17% of home office workers. Individual work scheduling during remote working helps to better manage workload and stress. Employees who work remotely can take a break when they feel less productive and then resume work once their energy levels are restored. Managing the workload in this way allows them to remain focused and active.
Statistics show a dramatic increase in interest in continuing to work remotely once the pandemic has ended. This indicates that the flexibility of remote working and its impact are not only positively changing people’s lives, but also their views. Further studies also found that mutual trust between employers and their employees who are working from home has a strong impact on work performance. This suggests that the future of remote work is bright. Companies and workers can expect to see positive changes in productivity. The benefits are undeniable and we can expect a huge shift in the market.
Thank you, Nadeem, for giving this interview and providing useful insights.
+++++ The interview with Nadeem was conducted on 29/03/21. +++++