Life feels very different these days. An international crisis is keeping many of us from doing the things that we used to do for work and for fun. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to keep working while avoiding the dangerous front lines of this crisis are now finding that our daily routines are confined to small and familiar spaces. Suddenly, the commute to the office is just a trip from your bed to your desk (or to your kitchen table).
As work schedules and locations have changed, so have some norms. If you think the dress code has been pretty relaxed at your work lately, you’re not wrong. Business attire isn’t what it used to be. Formal workplaces are now, in their virtual versions, becoming business casual ones — while business casual workplaces, in turn, are going with very casual wear.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There’s nothing wrong with casual attire, but keeping business formal by donning a business suit or a business dress has real benefits.
“Dress for the job you want,” the old saying goes. The idea is that certain ways of presenting ourselves can identify us as the hard-working, upwardly mobile professionals that we want to be. Business wear has a real purpose.
This is just as true on a Zoom call as it is in a corporate boardroom. If your work-from-home schedule includes any video interactions, then you should treat those moments as if they took place in person. That means grabbing a dress shirt (and ironing it) or donning whatever other business casual or business formal duds that you’d be wearing under more normal circumstances.
If you normally wear makeup, you should wear it for Zoom calls, too. It doesn’t take a trip to cosmetology school to master some basic home cosmetology tricks, including dying your hair your preferred color and getting your makeup right for a Zoom or Skype call. The beauty industry is suffering in much the same way as other industries are, so don’t expect to see your favorite beauty professional anytime soon. You’ll just have to make do with your own two hands and beauty industry products you can get online or during trips to essential stores.
Rituals and Work-Life
But can you wear underpants under your suit jacket? Wear athletic shoes instead of dress shoes? Well, maybe — but it’s probably not the best idea. Your Zoom business meeting will probably not involve anyone seeing you below the waist, but it would be awful if you forgot and stood up, revealing your boxers or athletic shoes to faraway team members. If you’re going to be wearing formal business attire, it’s probably best to complete the ensemble.
Besides, dressing right has benefits even when you’re not interacting with colleagues, clients, and others on video chats. Studies show that productivity is tied to routine and to mindset, among other things. Getting up in the morning and donning your business attire and dress shoes can help kick-start your workday, reminding your sleepy brain that these are work hours. Casual pants are nice to wear on casual Fridays and the occasional work-from-home day, but if casual pants aren’t your normal workday wear, then you should consider keeping them in the closet on work-from-home weekdays.
Take it from folks who have been working from home for ages: It’s very important to maintain a routine and go through the rituals of working, including putting on pants (real pants, not pajamas) and whatever else you normally wear to get work done. It may seem silly, at first, to work from home in isolation while wearing a suit jacket. But if a suit jacket is what you wear in the office, you’ll likely find that wearing one while working from home will make you feel more productive.
In other words, your work-from-home wardrobe should look very much like your regular work wardrobe. While a lot has changed in the business world in the United States and across the world, it’s still important to show up looking professional — dress shoes and all.