Is It Time to Get Remote Staff in Your Apparel Shop?
Before 2020, you might never have even thought of the words “remote staff,” let alone made them part of your business plan. Yet, the new normal equals offering hybrid work arrangements to your team, and that’s probably not going away. Having a reliable, happy staff who can work onsite and remotely is one of the best ways to keep up an uninterrupted workflow—and uber-satisfied customers.
There are quite a few positions throughout your shop that keep your business running—and can be performed virtually. When you expand your shop roles into remote positions, you also get the opportunity to pull from a wider pool of candidates, and bring on contractors when you need them.
If you don’t already have people in these roles, consider hiring for them now, whether they’re part-time or full-time employees, or contractors:
- Graphic designer, screen-print artist, or embroidery digitizer
- Virtual assistant
- Receptionist or customer service rep
- Marketing manager, content creator, or social media manager
- Human resources, or training and onboarding staff
- Accountant or bookkeeper.
While some business owners still hesitate to allow their staff to work at home, at least part of the time, remote schedules and flexibility will be big differentiators when you want to find quality support people. Here’s what you need to know to get started with remote team members.
Are remote workers happier, more productive and more loyal?
All signs point to yes. Obviously, having a content staff can positively affect how well your shop runs and serves customers. Whether you allow onsite employees to partially work from home or you hire remote employees (or contractors), this data from Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2020 shows how a virtual environment can make or break your staff’s loyalty and longevity:
- 75% of people are the same or more productive while working from home.
- On average, remote employees worked an extra 26 hours each month during COVID (that’s nearly an extra day every week).
- Remote employees save an average of 40 minutes daily if they’re not commuting, and nearly $500 a month in expenses.
- 23% of full-time employees are willing to take a pay cut of over 10% to work from home, at least some of the time.
- 59% of respondents are more likely to choose a shop that offered remote work options, compared to those who didn’t.
However, before you hire anyone, you should take a look at your business’ needs. Each shop is different and what may work for you may not work for another (and vice versa). Depending on your shop size and order volume, you might need a full-time art director or marketing team. Or, you may need a part-time or contract graphic artist or social media manager. If your workload changes throughout the year, you might want to hire contract graphic designers, customer service reps and salespeople.
The difference between remote employees and contractors
There are a couple of terms you should be familiar with, in case you’re not already—contractors and remote employees—and the difference between the two.
It’s important to remember that a contractor isn’t your employee. Contractors work for themselves (and may have multiple clients if they’re running a business), so you contract with them to provide a specific service for your company. As such, they’re not on your company payroll as an employee, and you don’t provide them with benefits like health insurance, although you may pay them hourly or a set monthly fee for specific services. For example, if you outsource work to a graphic designer, you may pay by the hour or by the project. A bookkeeper might ask for a set monthly fee for ongoing services.
By contrast, an employee, even if they’re remote, does work directly for your shop. They’re on your payroll, they continue to work beyond one project, and may qualify for benefits if you offer them. The term “remote” implies that these employees may work from home some or all of the time.
Tip: If a remote employee resides in another state, talk to your benefits administrator to learn if anything needs to be adjusted because they live in another state than your business.
Generally, contractors don’t receive the same type of benefits that employees do, which can make an expert-level provider more affordable for you. Contractors are responsible for their own tools, fees, and taxes. Plus, you can often contract with them only when you need them, or for a specific length of time. This allows you to determine if they’ll meet your needs or if you need to look elsewhere. Start on a project basis or with an initial 30-day period. That’s why you may consider a virtual contractor who’s experienced in both remote working and the skillset you want to hire, like graphic design or sales, instead of a full-time employee.
Get going on remote roles
Don’t wait until a crisis happens to set up partly remote schedules for some of your employees or to bring on virtual staffers. Here are some quick tips to help you get started:
- Set up VPN or cloud access to your systems. Whether your customer service rep or graphic artist is sitting in your shop or at a remote desk 1,000 miles away, you want the experience to be the same. You might even want to hire an IT consultant to ensure everyone is set up correctly and trained.
- Set up routines, rules, and parameters so work gets done on time and well. Whether you expand a current staffer’s role with remote work options, hire a remote part-time employee, or bring on a contractor, everyone should understand your expectations and work as a team.
- Set up a cohesive shop culture that includes all team members. For example, you might hold a weekly or bimonthly video meeting with everyone to talk about goals and accomplishments.
- Set up partnerships with other local shops to take on decorating jobs in case your machine operators aren’t available for any reason. This also helps in case you have a larger-than-normal workflow.
Getting creative with how you can continue to delight customers and fulfill orders will serve you well during regular times, and when unexpected events arise.