With more of us working from home, we tend to get excited about the prospect of working in our pajamas all day, attending virtual meetings in sweatpants (or no pants at all) and growing a quarantine beard. Personally I just can’t get motivated if I’m wearing the same thing I’ve slept in. It’s a big deal to get up, get into a work mindset and put in an eight hour day with nobody but the dog to watch over you. For me, putting on something business casual – even if there’s nobody to see it – just helps me psychologically get in the mood to get to work. But I wear a blazer and a fedora to walk the dog, so maybe it’s just me.
Even though my morning commute consists of moving from the bedroom to the den, I still go through my routine, change out of pajamas and into business casual clothes, and even put on a little of my favorite Dolce & Gabbana cologne. The wife likes it but the dog still prefers my scent after I have been cooking breakfast and still smell of bacon.
What other work-from-homers are wearing
I asked the work-from-home crowd what they’re wearing while they put in their eight hours in isolation, and much to my relief, I discovered that I’m not the only one who just can’t seem to get moving until I put on something decent. One of my favorite responses was from Patricia LaCroix, owner of LaCroix Creative, who calls her work-from-home fashion “the upside-down mullet,” which she describes as “all business on top and a party on the bottom.” Always wanting to be ready for an online meeting, Patricia tells me she wears “a nice, business-acceptable top, with my hair done, and even sporting some make-up. On the bottom, I’m wearing yoga pants and my bunny slippers. It’s all about comfort from the waist down.”
Jennifer Willy, editor of Etia.com, says that “Most of us are stuck in our houses, working and doing our jobs remotely. Under these circumstances, we can wear whatever we want. But some experts have claimed that wearing appropriate clothes can help and push you towards doing the job properly. They suggest that our brain is susceptible to ‘enclothed cognition,’ a technical way of saying that dressing for the part can help fuel your ambition to complete a chosen task (mentalfloss).”
Cofounder of Broadband Search and fellow Seinfeld fan Carla Diaz has something to say about sweatpants as a wardrobe choice: “The problem with pajamas and sweats a a permanent work-at-home clothing option can best be summed up by George Costanza’s decision to show up at his buddy’s house wearing sweatpants in the 1990s TV series Seinfeld. Jerry wasted little time in educating him on what sweats as a wardrobe choice means: ‘I give up. I can’t compete in normal society. I’m miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.’ While that’s a pretty severe outlook, there is some truth to the idea that you ought to make at least some effort to ready yourself for the work day. It doesn’t have to include a tie and briefcase but perhaps should be something more involved than what you slept in.”
Freelance writer and editor of Oh So Spotless Afoma Umesi says that “Never leaving the house is strange and can do weird things to your work routine.” So true, Afoma! She dresses in business casual at home, and tells me “I like skirts and dresses, so I’m typically in a flowy skirt and a t-shirt these days. The rule is to be comfortable while still feeling “dressed.” So I never wear jeans or pencil skirts. I also wear simple earrings and have been known to swipe on some nude lipstick at the start of the day.”
International branding icon and model Sheila Anderson of Image Power Play has some spot-on advice. She’s been sharing her incredible daily work-from-home outfits and some great retro styles, and she says that “When people say ‘Nobody sees me while I am working from home,’ my response is ‘but you see you.’ What you wear affects your mindset and self-esteem.” Love the retro chic, Sheila!
Switching your mind from “home” to “work”
Personally, I don’t even own a pair of sweat pants. There is a comfort argument to be made, but it’s just not a good look. Does it matter? Well, yes. If you’re confined to the house, you are probably going to be on more than a few teleconferences. Work is still work, no matter where it is being done from, and you just don’t want to have the image of you in a dirty tee-shirt burned into your boss’s brain. But the biggest challenge in working from home successfully is simply switching your mind from “home” to “work.” If you are in home mode all day, the temptation to go clean the kitchen, do your laundry, take a break to watch your favorite daytime soap, or just lie on the couch and take an afternoon nap is overwhelming. The easiest way to get into work mode is just to dress the part, even if your spouse and the dog are the only ones who see you.
Mike Madry, a senior media relations specialist at Raleigh-based MedicareAdvantage.com, is a man after my own heart. “I might be in the minority, but I’ve forced myself to dress in business formal attire,” said Mike. “While our company has a very casual and relaxed approach to attire requirements, dressing more sophisticated has made me more productive. Wearing a suit and tie is much more of a mental trick for me than trying to look professional.”
Sure, there are those who can sit in front of the computer in their bathrobe and their uncombed bed hair, and put in that solid eight hours. It sounds wonderful. But when it comes down to it, it’s harder than you think.
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.