Do I need to wear pants for this meeting? And other important WFH considerations

Believe it or not, research shows your alertness is affected by what you wear. A study found that people wearing a doctor’s lab coat displayed heightened attention. When the same people wore the identical coat, but were told it was a painter’s coat, they were far less attentive than before. 

The research found that the clothes you put on have a significant influence on your mood through their perceived symbolic meaning. This theory supports the notion that we would stay “more focused when wearing work clothes, and may be more cognitively alert than if we dressed down. But it’s not as obvious as that and it doesn’t necessarily mean you should switch back to old corporate suits to boost productivity. There’s no absolute scientific study to prove that attire impacts productivity,” says Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, psychologist and author of “You are what you wear.”

“So much of it depends on your gender, your age and your job title. It’s very individualistic.” But subtle dress changes can bump up productivity.

Many companies, especially in tech, insist on employees dressing down to cultivate a casual work culture. For some workers, wearing the same type of clothes in and out of the office is troublesome. It becomes hard to distinguish between their “work” and “off work” selves. But there are simple ways you can make that distinction.

“People can dress up in a way that still promotes their company’s culture and brand. You can take a creative approach to dressing in ‘work’ mode, even if you’re wearing jeans,” she says. Wearing a dressier shirt with customized buttons or cufflinks is one way for men to dress up jeans. Women have a multitude of options – picking fancier shoes or accessories – for example. Experimenting with outfits that help you feel more focused is key.

So although it can be tempting to stay in your worst gym shorts all day, better to get dressed and ready for your working day as a matter of disciplined routine in whatever represents what you do. This should make you feel more awake and ready to tackle the day ahead of you. You are more likely to feel groggy, lethargic – and therefore unproductive – if you start your work day in a less than definitive fashion (no pun intended) throwing on whatever happens to be around.

Creating boundaries to get you out of work mode

It is equally important to have a daily activity that signals a change when you revert back to ‘home’ life to alleviate the stress, guilt and spillover often associated with working from home. Post-work rituals to decompress may seem minor but can be very important for your wellbeing. Create familiar mental boundaries and routines and get out of that work mode at a predefined time as much as possible. Put your work in its rightful space – far away from you – at a consistent time, get into your favourite lounging garms and unwind with your favourite book, cocoa or tipple of that red seasonal stuff. You deserve it.