Can you work remotely in a fashion business?

Remote work is on the rise and has been spurred on even more by the social restrictions resulting from global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the world, millions of fashion businesses are facing the challenge of trying to work remotely, or shutting down entire departments or altogether. We’re here to discuss how you can model your fashion business so that it can offer remote work for you and for any employees you have.

What do you need to work remotely?

Working remotely comes with a unique set of pros and cons. It all depends on what kind of work you do, and also whether you’re employed, freelancing, consulting or running your own business. Needs will vary for every industry and role; not everyone in every industry can enjoy remote work.

Working remotely in fashion businesses:

Fashion is a broad industry, which means that there are some kinds of fashion businesses that can easily move to remote work, and others which will experience challenges with this. The scale of the fashion business you work in also plays a role here:

What kinds of fashion businesses can work remotely?

Home based fashion businesses are the most obvious kind: many fashion entrepreneurs work from rooms within their homes or from their garages or outbuildings. The latter applies for some small scale fashion businesses too, especially those manufacturing jewellery and accessories, rather than garments. The reason for this is that the fashion business is still in start-up or SMME phase, where costs are kept as low as possible, and no staff are taken on unless absolutely necessary, often on a casual, temporary or contract basis instead of permanent. 

Do niche fashion businesses work better remotely?

To answer this we need to be clear about what a niche fashion business is. It could be a fashion business that is overall small in scale, like a home based business, or it could be a business that is moderate to large in size but only fulfills a single part of the process of creating fashion-related products. In these situations there is less complexity around the business operation, so less production, storage and administration space is required by the fashion businesses in question.

Can large scale fashion businesses offer remote work?

For a selection of employees, yes, this would be possible. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all fashion businesses to consider opportunities for remote work. As consumer demand for specific items drops due to the rise in unemployment, fashion businesses are left with less revenue, smaller profit margins and some are even running at a loss. Large scale fashion businesses can offer partial remote work or empower a portion of their workforce to build themselves up as service providers, who can then be outsourced.

Is it risky for fashion businesses to work remotely?

Every business decision comes with risk. When it comes to working remotely, it’s impossible to achieve a 100% compliance status with any health and safety code. How do you know that your remote employees are adhering to safety protocols, like not allowing their children near any machinery or equipment that they’ve set up? How do you track targets and progress, handle equipment failures or service needs? Even if your employees have space in their personal physical environments, for the materials they need to work with, how do you account for the imposition that it might be on them and their families? 

Tips for working remotely as a fashion business:

If you’re an independent fashion entrepreneur, or a small scale fashion business owner, here are some tips for working remotely:

  1. Manage your time effectively. If you live with other people, there will be peak and off-peak times at which the home environment becomes noisy. Manage your time so that you can check off tasks in smaller chunks of time instead of battling to go a full eight hours. If you need to take advantage of early mornings, late nights and weekends, it might be an option depending on your goals, orders, deadlines and management (if you’re not part of management already).
  2. Dedicate space for work. Not everyone has this luxury but try your best to set up a dedicated table or desk, drawer, shelf, or room, for you to work. A lot of people use their dining room tables and there’s no reason that you can’t do the same. We at CAFB suggest having a system or rule in place where you can work at the table, allow others to do the same if they need to and clear up or keep the space tidy if it’s needed for another purpose by someone else.
  3. Communicate. Unless you’re flying absolutely solo, you have service providers, suppliers, staff or associates and partners, managers or team leaders who you work with. Working remotely means that people can’t pick up their heads to see you working – they may disturb you more often by calling you, or ask you more questions than you’re normally used to being asked. You need to approach communication as an over-communicator who never works on assumption, when you work remotely in a fashion business.

Are there any benefits to working remotely in fashion?

Like we said earlier, working remotely comes with pros and cons and this is no different for fashion businesses. Some of the pros include:

  1. Reduced premises and infrastructure costs: rent, utilities, telephony etc. – this is a big deal if you’re the owner of the fashion business.
  2. Reduced travel costs to and from work.
  3. Eliminating travel time to and from work.
  4. Reduced labour costs if you choose to outsource more functions when your fashion business works remotely.

The bottom line is that you can work remotely in the fashion industry. You’ll need to plan it carefully and make some big decisions about the day-to-day activities, but it is possible at all scales of business and it is an option for you. 

If you have other questions about fashion business, you can browse the rest of our articles or check out our fashion business programmes to fast-track your learning and success.

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