Workers are investing more in a home-office experience, whether it’s for a day at the back end of the week, or a wholesale abandonment of the traditional workspace.
To give you an indication, nearly 3.5 million Australians worked remotely in 2016, compared to just under a million in 2001. However, getting the work done from your favourite beanbag isn’t much of an excuse to loaf about in a singlet, trackies, and a filthy socks-and-slides combo.
Minion, you’re still on the clock and you still likely represent a company and the standards it expects from its employees.
Here’s how to dress well for business. At home.
The Art Of Dressing Well Without Dressing Up
Say what you will about suits, but there are some data to suggest that putting a bit of effort pays off, even when you’re working from home and can do your own thing.
A 2007 study on a group of professionals revealed that they felt most ‘authoritative, competent, and trustworthy’ when dressing formally. The corporate uniform made them feel like they were worth their paycheck and likely to succeed – and self-perception is everything, right?
A 2012 study also discovered a positive relationship between clothing choice and cognition. Wearing garments of symbolic importance (a doctor’s lab coat, in this example) enhanced one’s cognitive performance in several areas.
We might need more data to suggest that this applies to your work wardrobe, but it shows that clothing can impact the functions of the brain.
Finally, a 2014 study found that formally-dressed participants achieved more profitable outcomes in negotiation exercises, compared to their peers that dressed less Harvey Specter, and more off-duty dad on Sunday.
Fancy clothes also had a hormonal impact; the suited and booted chaps demonstrated higher testosterone levels.
Sure, three studies do not mean scientific consensus. But they offer important hints that dressing well can benefit you, and as a result, we think it’s something you should keep in mind once your boss finally caves in and lets you work from the comfort of your own home.
Remember, You Are Still On The Clock!
Besides science, working from home doesn’t mean that you remain unseen. Clients might have concerns that can’t be resolved over the phone, lunch meetings still happen, and you might interview candidates if you have hiring responsibilities.
Moreover, video conferencing has become an essential component of modern business.
Even if your work station is a set of cushions, you’ll be on Skype sooner rather than later. Your boss will need to check in, and those snore-fest boardroom meetings still need to happen in some capacity.
Like it or not, no one wants to see grainy footage of a guy in a bathrobe forecasting trends and business trajectories. If they’re in Brioni, and you’re in the Kmart activewear range, you will cultivate a lasting impression – and not a good one.
You don’t want to look like the guy that left his drive in the office.
Define Work-Life Separation
Working from home and setting your own work hours is liberating. But work is still work, and boundaries need to be set. Wearing professional clothing during your ‘shift’ can help you separate your working life from your personal (and hopefully much more interesting) life.
It’s about marking clear lines between when you’re on company time, and when it’s time to fire up Halo 3 and scoff Tim Tams. No one wants to feel like the workday never ends, or that their professional life invades their living space. Balance is essential. Maintaining some semblance of a uniform can give you a visual identifier that work is work, and fun is fun.
Smart Casual 101
Chucked out your suits and never looked back? This outfit is ideal if you have fewer client-facing responsibilities and want an achievable compromise between style and comfort. You might work in the creative professions, run a sole trader enterprise, or simply no longer have need for a suit and tie.
This is based on quality, tailored basics (which you can find here). Start with tailored sweatpants, dress sneakers, and a plain merino rollneck or open neck button-down. The last one will depend on climate and how far you think you can push the casual end of things.
If you’re a slack bastard that’s determined to keep things as casual as possible, sub the shirt for a fitted tee.
Short-Sleeve Business Casual
Our next pick is a step above informality and a step above in effort. This outfit is based around corporate staples that have been dressed down just a little. Less face-to-face work? Bin the tie. Fewer meetings with the CEO? Swap the long sleeve business shirt for a short-sleeve chambray or oxford.
This is the outfit where a change of clothes isn’t mandatory, should you be required to leave your home desk or jump on a video conference call.
Best of all, it’s conveniently transitional for slacking off at your desk, to slacking off at the bar at the end of the week.
Smart Casual Cardigan
This outfit takes a smart casual office look and turns it around with a cardigan replacing the blazer. It’s suited to the colder months where a suit or blazer is overkill, but some degree of formality is expected.
Because you’re at home and things are a little more relaxed, you can incorporate a few concessions to comfort: a knitted tie over a schmick silk one, chinos instead of formal wool pants, a rollneck to replace a shirt, and sneakers instead of a derby or oxford.
The Short Suit
The infamous ‘short suit’ still generates a fair bit of controversy and finger-wagging, but some of us have to log hours in summer.
You’d need to be in a more progressive working culture to pull this off, but it brings enough formality to a video conference or client meeting without any major sacrifice to comfort.
If you’re cranking the electricity bill to keep cool, bench the heavier Egyptian cotton shirts for chambray or linen, and drop the pure silk tie for a cotton-silk blend to dress things down.
Your shorts should be tailored – side adjusters, slim profile – but not skin tight, especially if you have the odd meeting to attend.
Sneakers or loafers if you’re dressing it down, monk straps if you’re leaning towards the formal spectrum.