I have been lucky to have started during Covid, and been mostly WFH, but going in for fittings/in person meetings (handoffs, fabric, etc) which are usually 2x/week.
This has actually worked out great, as my commute is very long (LA traffic= 1 1/2- 2 hrs each way) and I would have never taken a job in this location had Covid not happened. However, I just got the dreaded RTO meeting invite for this week, which may change my opinion of my job significantly, if I have to start going in more often.
One thing I do know- most of the jobs I see posted are for full time in office positions, and I am NEVER going back to doing that again (15-20 hours of commuting a week, and for what?). There are amazing benefits to WFH, and I simply refuse to go back to “the way we always do it”. WFH means not only skipping hours of driving, but also being to exercise in the morning or afternoons at normal times (no 8 pm pilates classes that I barely get to in time), being able to pick up my dry cleaning/groceries on my lunch break, not having to take my dog to day care all the time and hire a pet walker, and actually be able to meet up with friends for happy hour at normal times.
As product people, there are reasons we can never be 100% remote, and I get that, and it makes me relish my in person time more, as I try to book my fittings and meetings in groups, in order to be efficient and have less of the “I have 15 minutes between meetings so I can’t really dive into a project right now” times.
I daresay that the days I am WFH are the most productive, and I am able to accomplish things in the most efficient manner and able to truly focus. My office is open concept, and the days I am there I actually accomplish the least amount of work, as it’s so distracting. A lot of what tech does requires deep concentration, so trying to grade msmts/write clear comments/update BOMs, etc while a gaggle of girls 10 feet away are enjoying the free snacks and discussing Real Housewives means it takes me twice as long and I have to triple check my work. Whereas at home I can sit in silence, and really focus. I’m also working starting right at 9 am, into the the thick of things- whereas when I am in the office, I’m stressed from my drive in, need to go get coffee, fill my water bottle, etc and I’m not settled in and actually being productive for at least the first 30+ minutes. (Ok- let’s the be real, the 1st hour is kind of a wash).
There are a lot of things tech does that doesn’t require in person work- I pick up my samples/comp samples, etc and schlep them home-- and there is absolutely no reason for me to drive 3 hours a day just to go to an office, put on noise cancelling headphones, and measure garments and do data entry of specs, writing comments, diagramming corrections on photos/patterns, etc. One thing I love about tech design is that a lot of the work is very task oriented and quantifiable- ie: fit 20 garments, send out 20 comments, etc. If I’m meeting my deadlines, and accomplishing my work- then who cares where I do it? Which makes me think a lot of companies try to push the ol’ workplace “culture” aspect- as though they value the random chats/netflix discussions/what are we ordering for lunch kind of thing. Which, as I’ve gotten older, I could care less about. Sure, I like my coworkers. But I’ve learned that I’m at work to do a job, not make friends- and trying to coax me into spending all my time there (lunches and free snacks and coffee) doesn’t make me a better employee- and it’s still my job to send out those 20 fit comments, free coffee or not.
I think most fashion companies are just old school, and the butts-in-seats mentality is strong. I guess I’m lucky to be in a place where I am able to say to recruiters- Nope, not doing the 40+ hours a week in office anymore. It’s too draining and exhausting- hard on my mind, my body, my car, my social life and my relationship- and I don’t even have kids. Commuting (here in LA) is a part time unpaid job on top of the paid 9-5. I had hoped that companies would have learned from Covid that their employees can be productive, and happier, if you treat them like grown ups and let them learn how to manage their time. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.