Among the many changes the pandemic has brought about, changes in professional dress is one of the most unusual. It’s no secret that employees have had to make numerous adjustments to their workflow. However, wardrobe has also been an unforeseen adjustment many have had to make as well. As a new era of “working from anywhere” begins to take over, the standard of “professional” is up for grabs.
If you’re a remote employee wondering what might be in store for your wardrobe in the coming months, don’t fret. Here’s what we know so far:
Dress code changes are not explicit
If you’ve been working remotely for a company that has a strict dress code or one that is usually client facing, updates on acceptable work attire may not have been explicitly outlined at this point. In the beginning of the pandemic, some corporations ran into issues such as employees taking business calls from their bathroom, or problems with unexpected background noise before the “mute” button became everyone’s best friend.
In light of these issues, most companies have rolled out some sort of plan for video conferencing etiquette. This is a good place to start if you’re unsure of what outfits to wear when working. By and large the consensus seems to be that if you can’t be seen on camera, how you look doesn’t necessarily matter. However, if you do have meetings that require your video to be on, the unspoken rule is that the parts of your attire that can be seen, should look professional. A perfect example of this rule in action can be found in an article written back in May that touches on Florida Judge Dennis Bailey’s letter to the Weston Bar Association. The letter outlines his opposition to the way in which lawyers had been presenting themselves during virtual court hearings. With some lawyers showing up shirtless and others signing on while still in bed under their covers, his argument states that a court hearing whether virtual or not, is still a court hearing, making professional dress a must. This is just one example of how vastly different dress codes and standards can be.
At this time, remote work etiquette is sadly not always common sense. If your company still hasn’t updated their dress code amidst the pandemic, it’s best to adhere to a general rule of looking professional on camera in a meeting. While this doesn’t mean you have to show up in a suit and tie, it does mean that you can still do your best to appear put together.
Comfort and adaptability have become a must
While your company dress code might not be specifically outlined at this point, one thing that is for sure is the importance of comfort and adaptability when it comes to remote work attire. Whether you’re working from your own home every day, or your place of work changes week to week, you should have the right outfits in your closet to match your professional needs. Aside from the clothes you already own that you used to wear to the office, there are new ways to find a blend of both comfortable and professional.
Should you still be navigating how to find a wardrobe balance of professional dress and comfortable dress, consider the foundation of your wardrobe first. Believe it or not, clothing discomfort often stems from the first thing you put on before work, your undergarments. Starting at the bottom and building from there will help you to get a clear idea of what materials and styles work best for you while working. If you usually don’t put much thought into the underwear you wear, try investing in comfortable cotton underwear moving forward, as these types of underwear won’t result in an itchy or tight feeling under your clothes.
Aside from undergarments, jogger sweatpants have become a popular style trend, and the good news is, there are plenty of new sweatpants that you can wear to work to stay fashionable yet relaxed, even if you aren’t going to the office. As you take a closer look into the comfort and adaptability of your clothes, try identifying your favorite work-from-home outfits, and ask yourself why you are drawn to them. Can they be easily paired to make more than one outfit option? Are they less form fitting than other items in your closet? What materials are they made out of? The facts show that remote employees have turned to comfort clothing. Remote work often means more time sitting down at your desk. Employees no longer have to get up to attend meetings, or have the luxury of walking around the office for a break, so comfort is high priority. Just remember to never sacrifice professionalism.
There is psychology behind what you wear
The psychological effects of clothing have been studied for quite some time now. The uptake is that dressing up can in fact improve productivity. The findings show that the clothes you wear send signals to your brain, depending on what outfit you put on and where you end up wearing it – a concept known as ‘enclothed cognition’. If you usually wear a suit to work, then when you put a suit on, you are more likely to feel productive since your body is used to wearing such clothes in the office. Similarly, if you only ever wear loungewear while at home watching tv, such clothes will send signals that you are ready for relaxation, as opposed to a day of work. It should be noted that the clothes you wear to work are not themselves what causes these signals, but rather the continued habit of wearing certain outfits at certain times. For example, if you have been in the habit of donning loungewear while working remotely every day for the last four months, switching back to business casual attire in an attempt to improve productivity might actually end up hurting you instead. The point is, the habits you make with your clothing matter, even if you don’t believe they do.
It’s uncharted territory for everyone
Lastly, as we look to the future of professional dress in today’s professional climate, keep in mind that it’s uncharted territory for everyone. While remote-work dress codes may remain unspoken, Zoom conferencing etiquette is certainly something that has been outlined by many remote companies. At this point, comfort has become king in this new era of working from home, and psychology implies that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As you revamp your professional wardrobe, be sure to choose clothing that you know is best for your own headspace, but don’t go so far as to enter a video conference in your pajamas.