Dressing for Writing Success: Beyond Sweatpants

Working from home, no matter your chosen (or had thrust upon you) profession, presents a number of challenges that we’re still all trying to figure out as a culture.  One great example of this is the subject of work attire.  Some are firmly in the “underpants and pizza grease” camp, while others dress for work every day they intend to.

Believe it or not, I’m in the second group.

Not only do I have regular video conferences, I find that I’m significantly more productive when I dress like an adult.  Mind you, it’s business casual around here, 24/7, and I may be wearing Chucks with my skirt and blazer, but this is what I’d wear to a job.  At least until I got fired for breaking the dress code.

Dress for Success!!

Just because I do a thing doesn’t mean that it’s automatically right.  I mean, it should, but I’m told that it doesn’t.  So, what I’m saying is that it does.  So put on a clean shirt and listen up.

There are several small-scale studies that show a laundry list of benefits to actually dressing for work, even if the hot seat is in your spare bedroom.  Improvement was shown in key areas like feelings of competency, authority and focus, depending on the study you look at.

But dressing for work does something else, too.  It gives you and your housemates very clear signals about what you’re up to at the computer.  If you’re in yoga pants and a sports bra, you’re probably playing WoW and pretending to work.  If you’re in a button down shirt and a blazer, you’re probably actually working.

Work-life balance is one of the most troublesome areas for remote workers, hands dow.  Anything you can do to make a distinction between Work You and Play You will help.  Learn how to turn your work off and use every tool at your disposal.  If you have to buy one of those neon signs that says “open,” then do it.

Finding Some Fashionable Balance

No one expects you to don a double-breasted three piece suit, but you should look like you’re trying.  Below, you’ll find my top tips for dressing for work when your work is your home.

  1. Employ lots of solid colors.  Patterns are ok, but they tend to look less professional than a nice, crisp solid colored shirt with khakis.  Choosing more solids applies to all forms of clothing, though.  There’s nothing to read into a red shirt or a purple dress.  Toss a blazer over that right before your next video conference and you’re suddenly a total pro.
  2. Sorta clean doesn’t cut it.  Look, I know what it’s like.  I have Parkinson’s and I also eat at my desk, so I can come away from lunch looking like I had a burrito explode in my face.  I mean, maybe I did.  But I don’t leave that evidence laying around.  Anything that won’t rinse out immediately requires a wardrobe change.  You might as well go back to the sweatpants if you’re gonna leave mustard on your shirt.
  3. Try not to over-accessorize.  I’m the queen of accessories.  I just love things that sparkle, which is why glitter bombs kind of backfire.  I WELCOME YOUR GLITTERY CHAOS!  But it’s easy to overdo it when you don’t have regular human contact to keep you grounded.  Check your look in the mirror, then ask yourself, “Do I look like a mall mannequin?”  If yes, take something off and try again.
  4. Remember that you have control of your climate.  One of the best things about living in Texas is that it never gets really cold.  One of the worst things about living in Texas is that it never gets cold, instead it gets frighteningly hot.  Take today, for example.  When I opened the back door to let the dogs out, I thought I was experiencing a backdraft, sans smoke.  Did I dress for 900 degree weather today?  No.  Well, sorta.  I dressed for 72 degree air conditioning because aside from hitting the mailbox later, I’m not going out in this ish.  I’m the master of my climate and thus, if I think it’s currently too hot for dress pants, I can do something to change that.  Your thermostat is your friend.  Use it.

Look, I’m no fashion expert by any stretch of the imagination.  Sometimes I do ok, but often, too often, I whiff.  But I do know one thing:  since I decided to try out working in work clothing, my productivity has jumped, my focus has improved and, frankly, I feel more like grabbing the bull by his cojones most of the time.

Off with you.  I’m working!  Can’t you tell from my special Chucks with the little daisies?!?