Hundreds of employees on the private styling service Stitch Fix have give up their jobs after incoming CEO Elizabeth Spaulding introduced earlier this month that workers would now not be allowed to work any hours they select, in line with interviews with half a dozen former and present workers. The changes to the company’s scheduling policies led to an exodus of round a 3rd of its stylists, part- and full-time workers who do business from home choosing clothes objects for patrons.
“It was a gut punch,” mentioned Kara Calagera, who used the additional earnings from Stitch Fix to pay her mortgage and automotive insurance coverage. Keeping the job “wasn’t feasible without the flexibility.”
For years, Stitch Fix has attracted workers who — as a result of they’ve part-time jobs, keep house with youngsters, or have a incapacity — wanted versatile, distant work. Until now, the corporate allowed workers who may present their very own pc and web to do business from home, some for as little as 5 hours per week, recommending and sending Stitch Fix clothes to clients at any time of day.
But in an e mail despatched to employees earlier this month, the company informed stylists that workers would now be required to work at the very least 20 hours per week on a set schedule throughout common enterprise hours; their log-on and log-off occasions could be tracked, and stylists would at the very least quickly now not be allowed to grow to be full-time workers. Those who couldn’t work inside the new guidelines have been provided a $1,000 bonus to give up, offered they agreed to signal a nondisclosure settlement that promised, amongst different issues, they’d not sue the corporate.
Stitch Fix, which has a market worth of over $4 billion, beforehand laid off 1,400 California-based staffers in June 2020, saying on the time that it hoped to economize by changing them with cheaper labor from different states. Some workers, citing the corporate’s expanding use of computer-generated clothing recommendations, mentioned that the current workforce reductions made them really feel like their jobs have shifted from styling shoppers to coaching an algorithm that can substitute them.
“We knew from the beginning we were teaching the algorithm,” mentioned an East Coast–based mostly stylist who requested anonymity as a result of she nonetheless works on the firm. “We know the ultimate goal of Stitch Fix was to get rid of us.”
Stitch Fix acknowledged that current modifications have been inconvenient for some staffers however mentioned the shift would assist the corporate increase the number of “styling services” it gives. “Our Stylists are instrumental in building relationships with clients and creating the highly personalized experience Stitch Fix is known for,” a spokesperson mentioned by way of e mail. The firm declined to touch upon the variety of employees who’ve left.
But workers throughout the corporate are working collectively to trace what number of have give up for the reason that August 2 announcement, connecting on social media and sharing inner staffing numbers in every area: a tally from earlier this week discovered that round 1,500 stylists had left following the coverage change.
To many employees, the coverage shift meant dropping a supply of earnings.
“I’m a mom to two kids whom I homeschool,” mentioned one former stylist who give up her job this week and requested to stay nameless whereas she continues to obtain Stitch Fix advantages. “The strict scheduling just doesn’t work with kids.”
One Midwest-based worker mentioned she had began working for Stitch Fix on prime of her full-time day job after her husband bought laid off initially of the coronavirus pandemic. “If I couldn’t work after 8 p.m., it wasn’t going to work for me,” mentioned the stylist, who requested anonymity as a result of she hasn’t determined whether or not to signal the NDA. “I certainly felt for the working parents. I know a lot of people really rely on this.”
Many workers who haven’t but determined to give up stay annoyed with the corporate, in line with three present workers and dozens of screenshots from the corporate’s inner message board reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
A Texas-based stylist determined to stick with the corporate regardless of the modifications; having left her instructing job because of the pandemic, she mentioned, she wants the cash to pay again her federal scholar loans. But she’s anxious about how the brand new scheduling coverage will affect her potential to look after her son.
“The great thing about the job was being able to do the work any time of the day you wanted,” mentioned the stylist, who requested anonymity to guard her job. “When you have a toddler, you need to have the flexibility to work at their leisure.”
Of the 30 individuals on her staff, fewer than half remained, she mentioned.
The East Coast–based mostly stylist mentioned that she stayed on the firm as a result of she’d lately been laid off from a full-time job and wanted the cash, however she’s anxious about whether or not she’ll get dependable hours inside the new system. While the brand new coverage requires that stylists be obtainable at the very least 20 hours per week, firm tips reviewed by BuzzFeed News mentioned they are often scheduled for as little as zero hours as “availability doesn’t assure a sure variety of working hours every week.”
“We have to trust [management],” the stylist said, “and that really hasn’t worked out so well for us.”
As Stitch Fix leadership attempted to explain the policy changes to staffers, backlash inside the company — and publicly — was intense. On Monday, regional managers in the Southwest (the largest region, which includes all of Texas) told stylists there via the company message board that some of the new policies, like tracking when employees clock in, would be delayed. Stylists erupted, leaving over 300 comments on the internal post, screenshots of which were shared with BuzzFeed News, which opted to keep their names anonymous.
“This is disrespectful and extremely irritating,” wrote one worker. “Stylists’ roles are the final to be thought of and stylists are consistently talked right down to and given no voice. I hope the corporate as an entire is taking a very long time to consider the approximate 30%+ loss they’ve undergone.”
Another employee pointed out that, in exchange for scheduling flexibility, Stitch Fix stylists had made certain workplace sacrifices. “It’s hard to understand and tolerate when we do not get laptops provided, a raise, or any type of assistance with our internet,” this employee wrote. “I’m wondering how we’re supposed to feel that this change is to better help us? It seems as if we have to just deal with it and move on or leave.”
“I’m not worried about how I will be scheduling within these time restraints,” wrote another stylist. “I’m worried about what this means for the future of [Stitch Fix] and how they will continue to mistreat their employees in the name of ‘change.’”
Indeed, Stitch Fix has been going through a period of significant change. After the company missed its revenue goals in the beginning of this year, its stock price fell. In April, founder and CEO Katrina Lake stepped down. HR head Jevan Soo Lenox left earlier this year as well, according to his LinkedIn profile, as did chief algorithms officer Brad Klingenberg and Tatsiana Maskalevich, the director of data science. The company has also brought in multiple executives from productivity-obsessed Amazon in the last year, including CFO Dan Jedda and chief product officer Sharon Chiarella. Lake was replaced by Elizabeth Spaulding, who came to the company in 2020 from consulting firm Bain; her first day on the job was the same day the scheduling changes were announced.
Five current and former Stitch Fix employees who spoke with BuzzFeed News said they wondered whether the company’s intention was to reduce its workforce and replace the stylists with computer-generated recommendations. Last year, the company rolled out a program called Preview that presented customers with a selection of clothing items, half of which were selected by a human stylist and the other half by an algorithm. But in recent months, employees said, the company began increasingly sending out boxes of clothing that were entirely selected by the algorithm, with stylists only getting involved to write a brief note and make corrections if customers complained.
“It’s like we’re constantly making the algorithm better by fixing their mistakes,” said the Texas-based stylist. The new CEO, she said, “thinks that the [technology] can do better than us, and that clients don’t care … that there’s not a person behind the computer.”
Asked whether Stitch Fix is moving toward a more algorithmic model, a company spokesperson pointed BuzzFeed News to a recent earnings name during which Spaulding mentioned it might “continue to invest” in stylists, who she mentioned “play a role in a number of places for our clients.”
“They also play a very active [role] in training our machine learning models,” she continued. “Our ability to generate algorithmic outfits in a feed is, we think, a real source of differentiation.”