Does What You Wear Matter When You Work From Home?

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Switching from working at an office to working from home is a pretty big change. When I made the switch, I particularly missed my coworkers, the 10-6 structure, and the soda machine, but the biggest difference was definitely my wardrobe. Does it matter what you wear when you're working from home?

At first glance it seems like the answer should be a resounding, “no.” With no one to see me, whatever clothes I put on were just for me, and whatever neighbor could see me through my home-office window. As far as I could tell, there was no practical reason to put on my office drag when nobody would see me. I could stay in my pajamas all day if I wanted.

But while idea of perfect, 24-hour comfort is appealing, what a person wears can affect the way they feel, which in turn can affect job performance. Maybe I really was going to have to wear smart shoes and an uncomfortable bra to successfully monitor Twitter and conduct Skype calls. The only way to know for sure was to play Goldilocks and try all my options to see which ones worked best.

Office Clothes
My experiment began with the full Office Lady outfit, which was a complete non-starter. I made it about 10 minutes before realizing high heels do not work at a standing desk and kicked them off. (That’s also right about when I realized that standing on my yoga mat made my standing desk experience much more pleasant.) Pantyhose and a pencil skirt always seemed perfectly comfortable at the office, but in my apartment they suddenly felt distractingly uncomfortable. That outfit was supposed to get a week of testing, but I gave it up after a day and a half.

Pajamas
Working in pajamas was much more fun, but it did make me wish I had more sets of cute, matching pajamas like Zooey Deschanel on The New Girl. As long as I was clean and tidy, I did not notice an appreciable decrease in productivity between wearing pajamas and wearing my office garb. Personally, I think I was more productive because I wasn't fussing with tights or wandering skirts all day.

I didn't like wearing the pajamas I had slept in, though; that was just a step too far into sloppiness for me. Getting up and putting on a new set of pajamas for work was much better. I highly recommend it.

Casual Clothes
Between those two is the middle option of wearing comfortable, casual clothes like jeans and a comfy sweater. That was pretty much as comfortable and productive as wearing pajamas, with the added benefit of not being embarrassing on the rare occasions someone dropped by.

Having committed myself to wearing either regular house clothes or clean pajamas during work, I asked some other work-from-home types about their preferred options. I expected the answers to run the gamut, but of the eight home-office workers who responded, all but two said they wore pajamas or pajama-type clothes to work unless they expected to have to meet people. Of the two holdouts, one wore jeans and a hoodie, and the other said he started the day in pajamas and changed to jeans and a T-shirt around lunchtime. Nobody wore shoes.

When you do your job from home, do you find that what you wear makes a difference in your work?

(Image credits: Chris Perez)