What you wear matters when you work from home, research says Leave a comment


In the era of Zoom calls and Google Meet, nobody is likely going to notice the bottom half of you anyway. So why even bother going into any trouble, you may think.

It makes more sense than ever to dress casually to work. After all, most of us are no longer schlepping into the office every day and not being seen by colleagues while we work at home.

For videoconferences you can resort to top-dressing, i.e. quickly throw on a decent top without having to change out of your comfy tracksuit bottoms or silky loungewear. But how does this kind of behavior influence the way we think of ourselves and our productivity? Do we really work better in a business shirt or blazer?

Several studies say that we do. For example, researchers in the U.S. found that people who have to remain highly concentrated find it easier to do so while wearing a white lab coat, which is associated with doctors and scientists.

While you are unlikely to throw on a doctor’s coat while working from home, clothes matter. “The working day begins in front of the wardrobe,” says Petra Lienhop, an employment coach from Germany. “Appropriate clothing increases self-esteem and self-confidence and makes one work more productively.”

The effect also depends on what you yourself associate with particular clothes. For example, “If you’re used to putting on a suit or blazer to work,” said Carolin Pfau, a member of the German Coaching Association.

“Then you have come to associate work with that clothing all these years.” It could thus be part of an ingrained behavior, resulting in higher productivity.

“If you dress sensibly to work from home you enter a different mindset,” psychotherapist Andreas Pichler explained, “although there are certainly people who can manage this in their pajamas.”

Your ability to organize yourself and your level of maturity will determine how far you can successfully deviate from the usual pattern, Pichler said.

For coach Carolin Pfau, however, self-perception is only indirectly important. “It’s mainly about the external effect we achieve through our clothes,” she said. People who think that others perceive them as more competent and serious in elegant clothing will feel more comfortable wearing those sorts of clothes – and will thus appear more competent.

Our experts agree that you should choose clothes that give you confidence because this will boost your inner mood, especially on days when you don’t feel your best.

Clothes can also help keep you focused in a home environment that may have more distractions than a traditional office environment. “Smarter clothes can be a sign to the rest of the family that you are not approachable for private matters,” Pichler said.

Another advantage is that changing clothes marks the beginning and end of the working day. “Getting dressed and walking around the block once can really help to start or end the working day,” Petra Lienhop said. Doing your hair or putting some makeup on could also help you make the most of your home office experience, experts say.



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