Working From Home: How Our Clothes Affect Mood & Productivity

closeup of a man working from home and typing on his keyboard

For many of us, working from home or “WFH” was once considered the dream. No commute, no managers drifting past the desk to peer over our shoulders, and no dress code.

Just a brief of what to get done for work, and freedom to get on with it on our own terms.

Now a greater number of us than ever before are working from home. And it was great to spend the first months working from the couch or the bed, wrapped in a dressing gown.

But let’s be honest, the novelty has pretty much worn off, and the comic scene of a formal shirt and pyjama pants has been played out.

Working from home has brought about plenty of benefits without a doubt, but it’s got its challenges too. Keeping up a routine and staying motivated, energised and productive are the biggest issues for many of us.

In a previous article, we wrote a little guide to morning routines which can help boost your day both mentally and productively. Here though, we’re going to take a look at how the way we dress for “working from home” can affect how well we work.

The Argument For Dressing Up While Working From Home

The term “enclothed cognition” has been around since 2012, when a pair of researchers called Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky found that the clothes we wear can have an effect on our state of mind, and can boost our attention span, focus, and abstract thinking.

It works both ways mind you—dressing up for work can put us in “work mode”, while dressing down can make us feel more free, relaxed, and sometimes creative.

Indeed, it’s for this very reason that creative industries tend to have a more relaxed dress code.

So, should we put on a shirt and trousers not just for the weekly zoom meeting, but for the entire working day? You should certainly give it a go and see if there’s an effect.

People differ greatly, but if you sometimes struggle for productivity while working from home, it would be worth your while to try dressing for the occasion.

In much the same way as setting up a dedicated workspace, separate from the couch or the bed, will help draw a line between work and leisure, changing into and out of work clothes may do the same.

The Argument For Dressing Down While Working From Home

Well first, you can. Sweats and a hoodie are acceptable in no office environment, so why not take the chance while it’s there?

By the same token, you may find that work is more enjoyable in a T-shirt and jeans.

This is another example of “enclothed cognition”. For some of us, work clothes relate strongly to stress and pressure. Thus, having the freedom to bring in a little bit of colour or added comfort can boost your mood. It can also help improve your relationship with work, and ultimately help you perform better.

The average working day transformed in the pandemic era. Many companies have given consideration to relaxing the rules around office attendance and dress in the future. That’s just another facet of the “new normal”.

Just as is the case with dressing up, dressing down for working from home is worth giving a try. There’s a balance to be found of course—jeans and a button-down shirt should put you in better working spirits than your pyjamas.

See if you’re happier at your work, and indeed more productive, when dressed in a more homely way.

The Bottom Line: Dress for Your Mood & Find The Happy Medium

We’re not going to draw a strict line here and say you must dress sharp even when working from home. But it is worth giving some serious thought to.

There’s something almost ceremonial about getting into your business attire, and it can have a powerful symbolic value.

On top of that, it might also create a strong impression. That’s if you’re turned out neatly for video calls and conferences.

But the bottom line is that you want to be both happy and productive in your work. Often, that sweet spot can be found by dressing up for WFH. Considering this is without the same formality as is required for the office. Maybe forget the tie and undo the top button, loosen your shoes, try a pair of business casual chinos instead.

Dress up, but dress down.  If you feel you need a bit of a boost, try dressing your way up to it. And if you need to pump the brakes and find a better mental space to get things done, feel free to dress more comfortably to get there.

At Nickson, we’re all about helping people take pride in their appearance. That doesn’t always mean dressing up in formal clothing, but sometimes, it does. When you’re ready to purchase your next formal shirt, check out our collection here.

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