Khalid Nadeem Arif, the founder and CEO of Outsourcing4work, a fully remote company, has been leading and managing the organisation for many years, despite being severely disabled. He successfully runs and manages his business from his bed, with the help of a company structure that isn’t tied to a specific location and through which his employees can work flexibly.
Khalid Nadeem Arif, Founder and CEO of Outsourcing 4 Work. He works lying down because of his severe disability
Khalid Nadeem Arif’s personal story is characterised above all by his sheer determination. Born in Pakistan in 1969, he first immigrated to Sweden as a teenager and then to Germany at the age of 16. At the age of 24, he became a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, and today, he manages the personnel services company Outsourcing 4 Work. Outsourcing4work, as an IT and Human Resource company, specialises in placing IT professionals from India, in German companies. In 2007, Khalid Nadeem Arif became seriously ill and was diagnosed with ME/CFS (see info box on page 34). Over time, he developed chronic pain syndrome and sleep apnoea, and now has to work lying or sitting down. But none of these hurdles prevented him from running and expanding his business.
The illnesses caused Arif to re-think, re-strategies and re-structure his company, as he was unable to come to work. As such, his home and the four walls he occupied became his new place of work. From here, Arif started developing Outsourcing 4 Work into a fully remote and flexible company. “There’s no need to be in a certain location or work fixed hours. Employees are requested to take part in the agreed online meetings, and are flexible to arrange their working hours,” explains Arif. For him, it doesn’t matter in which location any of his over 150 employees choose to work. The remote business model allows team members a higher degree of flexibility in their private lives – something to which the company attaches great importance. Outsourcing4work, currently employs team members from nearly 22 different countries and is ever expanding. The company’s previous experience with remote work meant it wasn’t impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. According to Arif, he was able to double his workforce in 2020.
HR creates the structures
Sandra Hand, Chief Human Resource Office at Outsourcing 4 Work, described the change toward a complete location independent work environment. “We’ve been able to slowly decentralise our processes and adapt them to the new way of working. Thus, over the past few years, we created an experienced digital infra- and communication structure.” In assisting us to accomplish both the practical and technical objectives of remote working, all employees are equipped accordingly. The business is solely based on adopting and implementing cloud-based software. “We use the advantages of cloud computing to give our employees a higher degree of flexibility, collaborate on joint projects and network globally using the same systems and tools,” says Hand. However, such changes do not just happen overnight. The transition to fully remote working took a substantial time to implement within the organisation. Hand had the following to say: “Since the processes were slow to implement in our company due to Khalid Nadeem Arif’s illness, an exact date for when we became fully remote is not existing, but it’s was approximately ten years ago. The changeover was an ongoing process of optimisation.”
Optimal use of strength
Is it even possible for a CEO to not be found sitting at his desk? Yes, says Khalid Nadeem Arif. His combination of fully remote working and a very pragmatic approach to work have allowed him to delegate day-to-day business tasks as well as all scheduled customer appointments to his employees. He himself takes care of all the strategic tasks within the company. Since speaking drains much of his energy, Arif communicates in writing via smartphone, tablet, and laptop. As Arif has plenty of time on his hands, he wants to make good use of it: “I am in the lucky position of being able to pursue a meaningful and productive activity despite my limitations. My business has always been my work and my hobby.” He even works during the night-time hours when he can’t sleep due to his illness. “Healthy people probably can’t imagine how long a day and even longer a night can be when you cannot do anything, but lie awake.
The road to fully remote working is not saturated for Outsourcing 4 Work yet. Management and HR are working together to further expand the company and make it even more flexible. “We always try to rethink and re-strategies our processes and systems and strive for continuous improvement in all our business areas,” says Sandra Hand.
Even through it is not that uncommon, a lack of research, on the serious illness ME/CFS, and the impacts on the human body are not known. According to the German Association for ME/CFS, and estimated 250,000 people in Germany alone are suffering from the disease. ME/CFS affects the nervous and immune system, as well as the metabolism of a human being. The main symptom is severe chronic fatigue, which has a particularly large impact on the quality of life of those diagnosed with CFS. Other symptoms may include pronounced muscle pain, headaches, cramps, and so-called “brain fog” which sometimes manifests itself in concentration problems. Due to these symptoms, many patients are no longer able to conduct regular work. The causes of the illness are still unknown; it often occurs after severe infections. At present, there is no cure for ME/CFS.