Sales agent Diane Sykes discusses the fashion industry’s culture of “always on, never off”, FOMO and the perpetual working day.
To quote Gordon Gekko, the divisive character in the 1980s film Wall Street, “lunch is for wimps”.
From the shoulder pads and power dressing back in the 1980s, to the present day with its high-tech Skype meetings and such like, throughout the decades our industry has always been known for its hard work ethic. I can count on one hand the number of lunch breaks I’ve had over the years.
Don’t get me wrong: in my experience we work hard, but we play hard too. Back in the day it was not uncommon to party through the night at one of the many glittering affairs to then waft into the showroom the next morning for a full and intense day of work. It was fun and exciting, and after all, the networking was necessary. To quote our anti-hero Mr Gekko again, “money never sleeps”.
Even on holiday, calls are answered and all social media platforms are scanned regularly
Not a lot has changed. The work is still intense – perhaps more so these days, as independent retailing has changed beyond belief. Every sale counts, every label must perform and, of course, social media has added a whole new dimension to our business. There can be no dead wood.
But it is not so much the volume of work, but the way we work that has changed so much. Before email, Instagram and Facebook, our official working day finished at the close of play at 5pm. From a wholesaler’s perspective, knowing that the land-line telephone was quiet afforded you the time to schedule your next day and plan your meetings and trips.
The world, however, has moved on and, for better or worse, the working day now never ends. It is not unusual for me to receive or send an email or WhatsApp message at midnight. Everyone has their preferred mode of communication and as such we are all pretty much available at all times. Even on holiday, calls are answered and all social media platforms are scanned regularly.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would feel very uncomfortable if I was unable to log in to make sure my customers were happy. I don’t think I can physically relax unless I have read and dealt with all outstanding emails. It is FOMO – fear of missing out – at its worst.
I sometimes wonder if there will ever be a backlash to this relatively new phenomenon of being on call 24/7. I think not. The world has already changed to accommodate this need for instant gratification, and it manifests in all areas. Songs are now written with no musical introduction as the record-buying public do not have the patience for a little instrumental teaser. Films are directed with a piece of action thrown in every four minutes. And so it follows that women need to know if they are going to have that floral dress delivered to their door by Thursday afternoon, its progress tracked the whole way.
For better or worse, the working day now never ends
Of course, the upside of these wonderfully varied forms of communication and the 24/7 office is the freedom that it allows. I can be working at midnight in an airport lounge or as I sit sipping a mojito on a sun lounger. But I think we can all agree that the freedom is indeed wonderful. It helps if you love, eat and breathe what you do, as it just becomes a part of your life and your hobby rolled into one.
Technology has moved so quickly in the last few years. I wonder what the next new communication will be. I hope it is not virtual holograms. Or maybe teleportation? That may be a touch too far for me. Especially if I am on that sun lounger …