• Khaulah Abbas

Should We Still Dress Up to Work from Home?

When the world went into lockdown last year, most people were happy to work from home. Oh, what a relief it was not to have to scramble anymore for clothes in the morning. Just pull on those comfy sweats and get to work. How liberating!

Fast forward a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, is it still as enjoyable and freeing? Working from home has made dressing for work more casual and easier on the pocket, but at what cost?

Recent indicators show that stress, lower self-esteem, and mental health issues are on the rise; does our appearance and how we dress add to that? The mind- body connection of “look good, feel good” has long been established, so why has this significant concept been cast aside at a time when it’s evidently needed more than ever?

Research has shown that the way we dress influences our emotions, confidence and how we are perceived by others. The color, style, and quality of our clothes affect how we feel. Sure, it may be easier to roll out of bed and without much thought grab something comfortable to wear and get to work, but are you doing yourself a favor? The answer is no.

You must think of how you would love to feel about yourself instead of how you are feeling. If you want to feel happy, choose a color that makes you happy. To feel more confident, choose something that makes you feel that way. Sure, you are working from home and want to be comfortable, but no one said that clothes must be uncomfortable to look put together nor is comfort a synonym for messy.

At times of global crisis, interestingly, not all industries suffer. “Affordable luxury”, for example, tends to perform well in a recessionary environment. Referred to as ‘the lipstick trend’, it was coined by Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estée Lauder, when he observed that lipstick sales tend to be inversely connected to economic health. To that effect, when facing an economic crisis, consumers are more willing to buy less costly luxury goods like fur coats, for example, and gravitate more to buying expensive lipstick.

Yet, this trend hasn’t been reflected in the COVID pandemic. On the contrary, studies show that lipstick sales have plunged in recent months, and understandably so. With most countries implementing a mandatory mask when outside, the use of lipstick is almost unnecessary as all that is visible are the eyes. Enter, the mascara effect.

So, pause a minute before getting dressed and check in with yourself. How am I feeling today? Do take that moment. Dressing according to how you are feeling may negatively impact your image and could easily land you in a vicious Catch- 22 cycle: You feel bad, so you don’t want to get dressed and you don’t want to get dressed because you are feeling bad.

How you dress affects your confidence and self perception. A study shows that our sense of dress influences our thought process. It found that professional attire increases abstract thinking, giving people a wider perspective and a more tolerant attitude.

In fact, when people dress for a specific role, the way they stand, walk, and talk changes. As we work from home, the boundaries of work and home have become blurred, and it is easy to lose focus. But being appropriately attired is one sure way of clearing those blurred lines, as it signals the start of your workday and subconsciously puts you in the work-mode mindset. When you are dressed as if you are actually in an office setting and not virtually at work, you will feel more confident as you step into your role, and therefore be will be more productive. Studies show that wearing something you believe to be empowering will boost your confidence, work performance and help you feel more assertive. This a compelling argument for discarding those yoga pants and wearing outfits that give you power and confidence.

How we dress speaks to others. Your look not only affects you, but also the perception of others of you. Although we try so hard to convince ourselves and others that we have become non-judgmental; the reality is that we do judge, and we are being judged. Working remotely is more about capability than image, but image still plays a role. At the beginning of the Coronavirus a Florida judge asked that lawyers be appropriately attired for zoom meetings. Many were showing up on camera with little regard for their appearance. A number of people have taken to dressing formally from the waist up and casually from waist down. Retailers have reported more tops selling out compared to bottoms. But what happens when you suddenly have to get up for any reason? So many virtual embarrassing moments have been caught on camera! Much of what we relied on during in person meetings is lost through Zoom. We’ve gone from three dimension to two. When we are not appropriately groomed, we have lost before we begin. We must proactively showcase our skills and talent from behind a screen. This is where dress helps. Studies have proven that perception of traits such as intelligence, authority, competence, and financial success are highly influenced by our look.

As freeing as working from home may be, dressing for work is still important. We can be more casual, but before you grab your favorite yoga pants, think of how you want to feel and how you desire to be perceived. You may be pleasantly surprised when you find that casual and formal could successively work well together.

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