Is casual dress killing our productivity?

aat comment

I’m working from home today doing my primary job as a lawyer and I wore two changes of clothes while working.

First, my pyjamas and then a comfy pair of denim joggers and a black tee. My face is bare and my short hair (which needs a fair amount of product to make it look presentable) is pinned back with bobby pins. I wouldn’t meet a client in either of these two outfits, and yet I am actually wearing them to work. The question playing on my mind is this – is dressing casually while working from home killing my productivity?

I find this question interesting, because I have never really thought about it until recently when I was asked by a colleague. There are so many other things that can kill productivity for me, both in the office and out of it, and my outfit features fairly low on that list. Having said this, I do dress “for my day”; not just in terms of client meetings, but in ensuring that I can get through those long 12+ hour days that come up fairly regularly in my job. When I know I have one of those days looming, I’ll dress as comfortably as I can get away with – relaxed tailored pants, tee and flat shoes, with a blazer if I need to be presentable, giant cardigan if I don’t.

So does that mean that casual dress leads to more productivity for me? I’m not sure about that either, it’s just so hard to make the connection. But it does make the long days easier, no doubt about it. And on a day working from home I usually find myself literally rolling out of bed and logging on in the space of minutes. This capitalises on maximum sleep balanced with no commute to create additional uninterrupted work time while still retaining some ‘me’ time during the day. Days like this can have the perfect flow.

If I can’t settle this debate through my own experiences, what do others think? I consulted a number of friends who regularly work from home. To be fair, each of them has an office they also attend regularly, they own proper office wear and, in the case of the women, stiletto heels for those important client and internal meetings.

That is to say, a day working from home is regular but not every day. A couple of them told me that they take the same approach as I do – wear whatever they are wearing when they need to do the work – in their case it’s often running gear. I asked if they thought they were less productive in casual outfits and the answer was an unequivocal no. On the contrary, the ability to work without wasting time putting together an outfit is seen as a huge bonus.

Another lawyer friend told me that she saves her heavy legal drafting for days when she can do it from home and she works wearing her oldest tracksuit pants and holey tee.  On the flipside, a fourth friend said that she always dresses casually, but can’t think until she has put on ‘her face’, as this is the step that signals that she is on duty. Interesting… a small ritual to get into your work zone.

This small ritual thing came up again, but interestingly, not in relation to clothing but the work space. The theme was this – the space needs to be cleared and prepared for work, it’s harder to be productive if the table is covered in breakfast dishes, magazines, kids’ toys and other symbols of everyday life.

So can we extrapolate how best to boost productivity through a work from home outfit? I think it’s difficult to do so because we are all different. But here are some things to consider – what is it that you enjoy about working from home? If it’s the ability to work uninterrupted in your own space on your own time, then your outfit probably won’t matter all that much. Rather ensuring that you are using your time in the best possible way should be the focus.

But if you need a signal that you are now at work, then work out what you need to do (or wear) to best create it. If you need to go through your daily grooming routine before you log on, then do it. Experiment to see if it creates a more efficient and satisfying day for you. Maybe a work-from-home routine is just the ticket for you, and what have you got to lose in trying right?

Aggie Goss is a Sydney based lawyer and fashion instagrammer @style_by_aggie.

Related articles