What to wear when working from home can be a challenge. The temptation to remain your cosy pyjamas can be overwhelming. If no one is going to see you (with the exception of the postman who comes bearing your neighbour’s parcels), is there much point in getting ready for the day? Even so, surely being comfortable will make you more productive – and nothing is more comfortable than a plush dressing gown and cashmere joggers?
Sadly, this is not the case – working in our loungewear can, in fact, hinder productivity. Since birth, we have learnt to associate our nightwear with a state of relaxation, so our bodies can prepare to slumber. Unfortunately for us, this has become almost too effective; every time we dress in pyjamas we unknowingly signal for our brains to sleep, which is not the ideal situation at 9 am on a Monday morning. In the same way, wearing smarter clothing that mirrors the working environment you are familiar with can help to change your mindset to one that focuses on work, as a result of the intrinsic associations you would have created.
More importantly, getting dressed in the mornings can help you feel good and by improving your self-perception, personal confidence and performance at work. Creating a positive work environment is essential when working from home; you want to have a space that is both inspirational and motivational, and a central aspect of this is your clothing. Research has shown that the mood and performance of workers can be affected by the appropriateness of their attire (Soloman & Schopler, 1982). Being formally dressed allows people to adopt self-perceptions associated with their clothing and describe themselves using more formal adjectives, meanwhile, the opposite occurs when in more casual dress (Hannover & Kuehnen, 2002). It seems dressing casually may create a more casual work ethic, or feeling lower productivity. Therefore, the feelings we attach to certain types of clothing can subliminally influence our behaviour so we perform in a way that is congruent with what would be expected, based upon our attire.
However, this isn’t to say people should work from home in suits and court-heeled shoes. It is equally important to have positive feelings about the items of clothing you wear because this will enhance positive emotions, perceived competency and sociability (Kwonn, 1994b). If you are going to be working from home for the day, there is no shame in putting on a pair of trousers that are a little more casual than what would be expected in the office. In some instances, wearing slightly more casual clothes can, in fact, boost morale and productivity (Alonzo, 1996 in Peluchette & Karl, 2007 ), perhaps through reducing a sense of corporate pressure . Experiencing psychological or physical discomfort can have a counterproductive effect on self-perceptions (Peluchette & Karl, 2007), so it’s about creating a balance between being dressed smart enough to emulate an occupational mindset, while remaining comfortable.
It is clear that feeling good in what you’re wearing can also help you feel good about yourself and therefore increase productivity – which is especially important amongst the increased distractions at home. But what exactly should this clothing be? Research suggests its more down to personal appraisals. Sense of clothing appropriateness for an individual’s job role influences their perceptions of their quality of role-performance (Solomon & Schloper, 1982). By feeling more responsible, professional and knowledgeable when properly dressed, it will inevitably lead to greater work outcomes (Kwon, 1994a). These aren’t necessarily always subjective too. Like formal language, formal clothing implies that a situation is not a casual or familiar one. This encourages deeper, more perceptive thinking which for many, is an important skill while working (Slepian, Ferber, Gold & Rutchick, 2015). It also helps to strike a greater work-life balance by distinguishing personal roles through dress. Physically dressing differently when working from home can help to embody an occupational role over a non-occupational one, such as a parent, wife or husband, and detach from the duties that come with these (Rafaeli, Dutton, Harquail, and Mackie-Lewis, 1997).
With this in mind, ultimately, working from home can be most effective when wearing something that is different from your everyday attire but still comfortable and you feel good in. Getting ready for the day as you normally would whether it’s to study at university or work in an office can be both physically and psychologically beneficial, encouraging productivity and detachment from the distractions the home environment presents. What is most important, however, is being able to switch off. It is easy to lose sight of the day’s structure at home – scheduling in regular breaks and switching off in the evenings will promote the greatest productivity and emotional wellbeing. Outfits can be one way to help segregate work and home life. Changing out of your work clothes and back into the loungewear you worked so hard to undress from that morning will allow your mind and body to shift back from a work to home context.
Meta description: Your decision about your work from home attire is even more crucial when the way you dress impacts your productivity levels.