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Flexible working conditions should be the new normal, says think tank

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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The SS21 collections seen during online fashion weeks this month were largely put together by teams working from home. As offices, studio and factories were closed from March, new methods of working were needed to deal with the disruption to businesses across all fashion industry sectors.

Government policies to contain the spread of Covid-19 have been highly criticized, but one thing that has come out of the pandemic is the flux of how we do business: how we work, where, when, for how long and on what terms.

A report by IPPR, a progressive policy think tank, suggests the experience of the pandemic may hold lessons for how work could be arranged more effectively in future, with greater agency in the workplace, and with more time for the important parts of our lives outside of paid labour.

Many people have adapted to working from home, while workers in industries like manufacturing are keen on more flexible working hours, even if it means being paid less, said the report.

How we work has changed

The pandemic has precipitated a shift in how and when work is performed. In response to social distancing requirements, manufacturing businesses that continued operating have introduced changes in shift patterns. While much manufacturing was stopped or reduced in the early stages, in ‘white collar’ desk-based jobs working from home has become commonplace.

With a reported 85 percent of fashion industry employees working from home in April, there has been a seismic shift in how work gets done. According to Edited, WFH may seem like a temporary solution to help contain the coronavirus right now, but it doesn’t mean retailers shouldn’t consider it a long-term policy post-pandemic.

Although many countries have eased restrictions, businesses are still hesitant to lift social distancing measures and welcome workers back into office spaces. While the tech industry has based entire frameworks on flexible work policies and were well-equipped to handle these mandated self-isolation practices, the retail and fashion industry have had less structure to prepare for this.

Location specific jobs require flexibility

Many creatives will already be used to flexible ways of working, but traditional design and production roles and those requiring machines to create garments, will have been challenging. According to Stylus, 3D digital design platforms allow creatives to execute these jobs remotely and upgrading technology skills will be a requisite for innovative workforces post Covid-19. For most companies, meetings are happening via skype and Zoom, while location-specific jobs, like fashion shoots, or the production line in factories, require flexible and creative working arrangements.

Rachel Statham, IPPR senior research fellow, told the Daily Mail: ‘The way people work was already changing before Covid-19, but the past few months have shown how far and how fast innovation is possible - fewer hours, more flexible shifts, more flexibility all round.

‘It’s not just people in professional and white-collar jobs working from home. Factories and engineering companies across the UK have also been operating differently, in ways that suit their workforce and have been designed with them.

‘Even as we continue to support the economy to recover from the pandemic crisis, we need to capture those improvements and learn how to be more responsive to the changing needs of the UK’s workforce, including in manufacturing industries, for the long term.’

Image FashionUnited; Article source: IPPR

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