There is no dress code in the home office.
How disheveled do you look when you’re working from home? Do you stay in your pajamas all day? Do you even shower? Or are you one of those people who insists on looking your office-best even while pecking away at your keyboard at home?
As officials try to control the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of white collar workers — normally bound by dress codes and expectations in the office — are trading business trousers for sweat pants, and stiff blazers for that hoodie they would only ever allow their family, roommates or dog to see.
For some work-from-homers, comfort-first attire is a source of shame — a symptom of broken routines and under-motivation. For others, it’s ultimate liberation.
After all, fashion in general has become increasingly casual over the past few decades. These days, activewear or “athleisure” is customary weekend wear, even outside the gym.
Plus, formal work environments have become the exception, not the rule — a trend often blamed on millennials in tech startups. Even notoriously buttoned-up Goldman Sachs is adopting a more ‘flexible’ dress code.
But even in a casual work environment, there’s a limit. When going to a job interview, 65% of Americans feel it’s important to wear a suit, regardless of how formal the company’s dress code is, according to a 2019 survey by Ranstad US.
In the same survey, 50% of respondents say they wear business attire from the waist up and casual clothing from the waist down when they have a video interview.
So, given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, is it unhealthy for people working from home to just wake up and stumble over to the computer screen in their pajamas?
“If that works for us and we can be in that place to put our energy into work the way it needs to be — to do the job — there’s nothing wrong with that at all,” Atlanta-based psychologist Erik Fisher told CNN.
On the other hand, the CDC has told people it’s important to keep up their routines to ease anxiety during the pandemic.
“It’s all about mental preparation,” Fisher said. “If this helps somebody to mentally prepare and to go through that habit (of getting dressed), and that’s the habit and the structure they’ve created for themselves, don’t change that.”
Researchers have long been fascinated with the meaning behind clothing, not only as a way for people to communicate with others, but as a way to shape one’s own perception of oneself. One 2015 study found that people who dress up tend to think more creatively.
But that just depends on the individual.
“If you pay attention to staying disciplined, showering as soon as you get up, eating a good breakfast, putting on clothes that make you feel good, you’re going to have a good day,” said Joey Schweitzer, the founder of the successful motivational YouTube channel Better Ideas and who works from his home near Vancouver, Canada. “You’re going to pay more attention to the work that you’re doing, and you’re going to feel like a functioning member of society.”
Some employees fortunate enough to work remotely are even trading casual Fridays for fancy Fridays, donning cocktail or black tie.
“It’s nice to build a sense of community and create a reason to make a work day special during such uncertainty,” said Laura Anne Cotney, who works with a real estate software company in Athens, Georgia.
Fisher recommended that if a person is working from home in his or her pajamas and feels like they “should” be dressing up, they need to look at where that inner voice is coming from.
“When people feel judged, they often go back to a place of shame and guilt and inadequacy, and that’s why I think we have to be able to be our own self-observers,” Fisher told CNN.
“In other words, we’re looking for the “right” way to do things,” Fisher said. “And if it’s not the right way, then it must be wrong, and if it’s not the good way, it must be bad. And if it’s not the strong way, it must be weak. So, ask yourself, where does that voice come from? And then be able to stop and tell yourself, it’s my own internal place of comfort and peace that will find my ability to succeed, not how I look on the outside.”