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Hacking the “New Normal” With a New WFH Wardrobe

What you wear will change how you work from home.
July 27, 2020
By Tara Lookabaugh

The Culture of Work Is Changing, and With It, Office Dress Codes

As more companies encourage workers to bring their whole selves to the office, many are adopting style repeats and “personal uniforms” in an effort to de-stress workwear.

Thrive took a deeper look into how what we wear to work affects our mental well-being, creativity, productivity, and authenticity. Take a spin through their special section: The Psychology of What We Wear to Work, for more background on why wardrobe plays a key role in how we show up in our day-to-day lives.

Why Is This Important?

The digital enablement of classic paper-based workflows has dictated the future of work. Tech-based team collaboration has shifted merit away from office attendance and towards employee productivity. On one hand, these changes disintegrated work-life boundaries. On the other, they enabled flexible work and work-from-home (WFH) culture to pick up steam.

The ability to take a midday jog or tackle chores while taking conference calls is alluring for top tech talent. Moreso, the fact that WFH-ers show higher levels of productivity than their office-confined peers, is intriguing for employers. In recent years, more companies took stock of the potential upsides of WFH, and began experimenting with remote work culture.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic suddenly forced 42% of the global workforce into home offices. Employers panicked while workers scrambled.

But what was sold as a 2-week hiatus from the office turned into a “new normal”. As WFH novices, we joined an expert-only world of disappearing work-life boundaries - with no end in sight. Now experts say that some version of a shelter-in-place will extend into 2021.  

It’s Time To Adapt – But How?

By focusing our energy on what’s within our control, we can create a sense of normalcy. Bringing simple habits of office life such as meal prepping, morning workouts, lunch breaks, and even shoes into our WFH regimen is a great place to start.

In other words, if possible, return to parts of your pre-coronavirus routine.

Think about your morning habits. It may seem trivial, but don't take for granted the benefits of setting your alarm, eating breakfast, and getting dressed. Some experts even recommend reinstating your “commute”. While you may be heading from the bedroom to the kitchen, blocking off 30 minutes in the morning to listen to a podcast or catch up with your carpool (call them, they miss you too) restores that missing transition from home to office - or sleep to work.

Climbing out of Bed and Onto the Couch, Cup of Coffee in Hand, Is a Saturday Morning, Not a Monday Morning

Restoring your weekday routine prevents the laziness of the weekend from creeping into the workweek.

Think about what you would wear to the office on a Monday morning. The WFH dress code is confusing, but if you’re wearing pajamas all day - or even athleisure - you’re doing it wrong.

Don't discount the impact clothes can have on our readiness to tackle the day. In fact, what you wear for work can be your secret weapon to hacking this new normal. 

Block Your Calendar and Dress Accordingly

Adjusting to the freedom of the WFH environment is difficult. Before the lockdown, our clothing told the story of where we were going and what we were doing. Pajamas signaled sleep, athletic apparel meant workout, and jeans indicated work. Today, many of us wear the same outfit all day, from when we step out of bed to when we climb back in. This blends the defining activities that make up our days. When we blur these lines, our motivation and emotional response is also blurred.

For example, the coziness that we would normally associate with sweatpants after a long day is creeping into our Zoom calls. We’re beginning to associate gym shorts with the work day, while dissociating it from the motivation to exercise. Wearing pajamas for work invites bedtime to work time, sometimes turning a 9-5 into a 9-9. These connections drawn from our wardrobe have a name - Enclothed Cognition - and lockdown is throwing them out of whack.

If you’ve noticed the boundaries of your day begin to fade, block your calendar. Note how you’re planning to fill your days and dress for each activity accordingly.

You Don’t Have To Wear Jeans, But Ditch the Sweatpants

Whether you work for a laid back tech company, or a formal law firm, odds are that what you’re wearing behind your Zoom screen differs from what you wore to the office. That’s ok - but maybe don’t work in anything you would be embarrassed to be seen in.

Struggling through the WFH wardrobe is a collective effort. We’re all guilty of the “Zoom shirt” next to the computer. Even reporters have been caught pantsless on national television. And who doesn’t like wearing slippers around the house? But if we’re to maintain a sustainable, productive WFH culture into 2021, we have got to start acting like professional WFH-ers. This starts with bringing some office culture into our homes.

Basically, aim for comfort plus presentability. This combo might come in the form of a versatile sweater, blue jeans, or a casual full zip. The WFH order may last well into 2021, so you might as well invest in a new Zoom look(s). This is your chance to take your Personal Uniform to the next level. 

Opt For Simplicity

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, a civil revolution, and daily news headlines of terrors like “Murder Hornets” and “New H1N1 Virus”. Unless you’re a fashion hobbyist, there’s no need to add more stress to an already stressful situation. Save yourself some time and opt for a simple, solid, mix and matchable look that you can #repeat. Upgrade to something you can easily pick out, throw on, and know will match any Zoom background. 

And Finally, Put On Some Shoes

It’s not good for your feet to be walking around barefoot all day. (It’s true.)
If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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