Is remote working bad for us? The rise of the Agile Worker

Remote working is on the rise. Often candidates are seeking it and with technology allowing us to connect globally, more employers are offering it. Whilst the thought of being able to work anywhere and anytime is very attractive, in reality, we are seeing that a rise in the requirement for employees being available at anytime and anyplace leads to employee ‘burnout’.

The Hustle

In a recent interview with The New York Times entrepreneur Elon Musk described his 47th birthday, he spent the day locked in his factory, pulling an all-nighter. “No friends, nothing,” he said. It might have been just another day in another 120-hour work week. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends,” he added.

Whilst Elon Musk is undoubtedly, one of a kind, wearing this exhaustion like a badge of honour is dangerous, this ‘hustle’ of long hours and weekend working is increasingly being seen as a staple. However, this ‘long hours’ culture defeats the purpose of getting more things done, or at least puts a very hefty price on doing them. There is plenty of evidence that working overtime reduces your productivity, and makes you feel and actually be less healthy.

The era when work ended as people left the office is long gone. Even for those not given the flexibility of remote working find checking and answering messages outside of traditional work hours unavoidable. However, our bodies cannot distinguish between being ‘on call’ in this way and actual work, in fact, even performing ‘work like’ tasks at home such as – scouring insurance comparison sites/following a complicated recipe effects the levels of stress in our systems. The body does not see this time as leisure times, as people cannot mentally detach from work and as a result cortisol levels increase leading to chronic stress and eventually to ‘burnout’.

The Agile Worker

At first glance it may look as if working flexibly, remotely and being agile are just different terms for the same thing, however, enthusiasts of Agile Working believe that flexible working is about being ‘available any place, anytime, anywhere’ where as Agile Working is defined as a new way of working – independent of location.

Agile working is about ‘bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task’. (

Rather than favouring the employer with a flexible worker – always being ‘on call’ Agile working is a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints – to optimise their performance and to do their best work.

The goal of agile working is to create more responsive, efficient and effective organisations based on more balanced, motivated, innovative and productive teams and individuals.

These are essential ingredients in surviving and thriving in the challenging global world in which we operate today and becoming more ‘agile’ and less ‘remote’.


Despite a slow start – the UAE is catching on to offering employees flexible work – a study from International Workplace Group (IWG) suggests that 60 per cent of employees in the country work away from the office at least one day a week and around 31 per cent spend half the week or more away from headquarters. (

The UAE still has a way to go to catch up with the global average, and presently many of the traditional family run companies are yet to follow suit, however, it should come as no surprise that the Entrepreneurial spirit of the UAE is shining through and many employers have already seen an increase in productivity and state that offering a flexible approach to work helps them to retain talent.

However, with the government bodies also offering flexible working, for example the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (more here) we’re pretty sure that the rest will follow soon – as Yousef Saeed Al Abri, undersecretary of the ADJD, said ‘the new system promoted flexible working methods, based on the use of technology to enable employees to offer the highest levels of professional service and to maximise their productivity’ – sounds like an Agile Workplace to us!

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