Last time I wrote about maintaining an artifical work/non-work separation as important for healthy and effective remote work. Here’s one (of several) associated, specific ways to help with that separation: dress (mostly) like you would for the office.
Perhaps the most common diss against people who work at home is that they are so lazy they just work in their pajamas. Or without pants. While these wardrobe choices probably aren’t as common as the haters say, there is a good point behind the criticism. There are studies about how what you wear can affect your performance and how others view you (which is unfortunately something you have to be concerned with for those who are back in the office while you’re not).
I generally dress as if I were going to the office, but perhaps backed down “one step”. On reason is that I can demonstrate that I am working just like everybody else, so as a show of camaraderie. Another is to help maintain that separation between work and non-work, foster that mental shift from “I’m at home” to “I’ve gone to work”. You can’t do that as easily in your pajamas.
I say backed down “one step” because, well, you are actually not in the office, so there is a slight relaxation of judgment that everyone understands. I think if you were working at home and wearing a suit like all the other dudes in the office, it would look odd to everyone. (Unless you’re getting on a client call or something.) Dropping the tie, or the jacket, seems quite reasonable to me.
The office environment where I work is quite casual already, so I have an easy time of it. For example, T-shirts and jeans are completely fine. Still, I won’t wear some of my older, run-down shirts to “work” anyway. Again, these are your co-workers, so it’s nicer to them not to look way out of sync with them.
I’ve kind of been implying that all of your coworkers can actually see you, because I know that face-to-face telecommunication is essential for effective remote work. So, you’ll be on a video chat with people on a regular basis. When you know you aren’t going to be seen, though, again, that switchup in wardrobe helps with the separation from home life, so it’s still a good idea.
Now, I’ll admit that I do sometimes “pop in early” to work while still wearing what I slept in. This is tantamount to checking your work email before heading in to the office. It’s not long before I step away to take a shower, get dressed, and formally start my day. On the flip side, when I’m done with work, sometimes I’ll change my shirt to signal to myself that I’m done for the day. It’s funny, in such a cerebral, abstract field like software engineering, how what you wear can have such an effect.
I haven’t worked in a co-working office before, where people from random jobs come together into the same physical space. I’m not sure what I’d do. My first guess would be to stick with what I’d be wearing at home; after all, everyone has different levels of comfort or job-related need, and the collection of people in the office are not themselves a team.
This isn’t a tough tip to follow. If you’re concerned about exactly what to wear, imagine that you would have to go drive in to the office later. If you could just step out of your door as you are, or maybe just change out of shorts into slacks, you’re good. If you’d need 45 minutes to get ready, maybe you’re looking a little too relaxed.
P.S. Regardless of the above, one rule remains above all others: Always wear pants. Thank you.