x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Running from the rat race in slippers

There are all sorts of names for us – some probably less flattering than others – but homeworkers, teleworkers, hot-deskers and (my favourite) virtual workers are a growing breed.

Earlier this week, in the middle of a working day and addled with cold, I looked down at my work attire (Marks & Spencer leopard- print pyjamas, slipper socks, Per Una dressing gown) and decided to pack it all in. Well, for the day at least.

So, coughing and spluttering with a head full of cotton wool and my throat feeling like sandpaper, I crossed the five yards from my workstation to the sofa, curled up and flicked on one of my favourite movies. At 2pm. On a weekday! The impudence!

You see, since I joined the legions of homeworkers, I get to pick and choose my hours. And while there are deadlines to meet, it is up to me how and when I work.

But before you sniffily dismiss me as a lazy time waster, what most people do not know is that I then set my alarm for 4am, as I have done every night this week, bounced out of bed before dawn and by midday, had done a full day's work.

There are all sorts of names for us - some probably less flattering than others - but homeworkers, teleworkers, hot-deskers and (my favourite) virtual workers are a growing breed.

You see them furrow-browed and hunched over laptops in coffee shops in Dubai Marina, ordering their fifth tall skinny latte of the day, or looking pallid-skinned and wild-eyed at the first glimpse of daylight (at 4pm) as they escape the claustrophobia of their home offices and frantically take their first gulp of fresh air on Marina Walk.

In fact, there are whole communities of these remote workers springing up all over Dubai, now that they have new gathering spots. First, there was the Shelter, with its cosy little booths and free Wi-Fi. Then The Pavilion in downtown Dubai opened, long benches crammed full of entrepreneurs hard at work, and now the latest contender on the block, Make in Jumeirah Beach Residence, is already buzzing with a whole raft of teleworkers.

And while you may raise an eyebrow in cynical disbelief, they are probably working 10 times harder than the rest of the office-bound workforce.

Office workers are said to waste an average 70 minutes a day dealing with interruptions, gossiping around the photocopier or being distracted - and that is before you have accounted for the average three hours a day they fritter away on Facebook, emails and social networking.

Homeworkers, on the other hand, save valuable time without a commute, not to mention drastically reducing their carbon footprint, and are more likely to work until the job is done rather than clocking off at 5pm.

Personally, I prefer the comfort of my living room. Not only do I have everything I need to function to hand (laptop, notepads, fridge laden with snacks) but I prefer the peace, and without the distraction of office banter and constant interruptions I am far more productive and motivated.

I recently bumped into some friends from a rival publication and learnt they had also broken away from the rat race to go solo. "We should have a freelancers' coffee morning," one said.

"But that would mean having to get dressed," I replied with horror. He laughed. I wasn't joking.

Last week millions of us celebrated Telework Week with catchphrases like "work is something we do, not a place we go". According to the Telework Coalition, bosses are more inclined to accept homeworking arrangements for staff because the term telework contains the word "work".

Strange, because it also contains the word telly. Which I'm switching off. Any minute now.

Tahira Yaqoob is a former features writer for The National