Before California’s “Stay at Home” order, I was already working from home. I’ve been a remote freelancer and solopreneur for much of my career, so I’m no stranger to the challenges of developing a daily routine that keeps me productive. It’s far from perfect, but I had some guidelines in place that worked for me. I’d walk the dog or go to the gym, shower, and get dressed in clothing that could be considered office casual. I definitely had days where I would roll out of bed and proceed immediately to my computer, staying in my pajamas until noon. But on the whole, I was adjusted to the concept. 

However, now that approximately one in four Americans is working from home (though that number is changing rapidly as the pandemic progresses) we have millions of people that need to develop that daily routine for themselves. And it’s no surprise that companies are eager to market towards this, as my inbox loads up with promotional emails telling me to “work comfy” from home.

Do you know who told me to be comfortable while working from home before sheltering in place? No one. Not a single soul. 

There’s always been a running joke about people who work from home wearing their pajamas all day. The implication was that if you were one of those people, you were doing it wrong (see one of my favorite humor pieces on the concept, “I Work From Home” by Colin Nissan). 

When I began establishing my WFH routine, I read plenty of articles suggesting that if you work remotely, for the sake of your mental health, you should get dressed as you normally would. According to Psychology Today, when we take a little more care in choosing the clothing we put on, our perception of our responsibility, competence, honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness, among other qualities, becomes heightened. 

I can attest to the fact that I do feel more focused, alert, and responsible when I get ready and dressed, as opposed to rolling out of bed and straight into a desk chair. However, even though you could argue that my circumstances haven’t really changed, my clothing choices were influenced by the knowledge that there were fellow professionals out there, interacting with the world, presumably while not wearing sweatpants. And that kept me in jeans even when no one was there to witness it. 

Now that those same people have joined me at home, it can feel downright silly to put on clothing with zippers, buttons, clasps, and other uncomfortable features simply to sit alone with my computer all day. And those who once rolled their eyes at working in sweats might be tempted to try it now that they have the chance. It is comforting, after all.

So what’s the best course of action if you want to stay in your pajamas at home, but are afraid it may affect your mental health? I’ve found that selecting an outfit with intention, whatever my choice may be, makes all the difference. So long as it’s washed and laid out for the next morning, if you’ve chosen an outfit for yourself, you’ve done so with intention. For me, the outfits I have chosen have turned out to be from popular athleisure brands such as Girlfriend and Beyond Yoga, and trust me when I say no one is more surprised about this than me.

A quick aside here: I started my own fashion line in 2015, which focused on women’s workwear basics. It was based on what I always wanted to wear to the office, an irony that’s not lost on me now. Much of the company’s focus was on sustainable manufacturing practices, but in my research, I knew that the sweet spot of the sustainable industry was headed towards athleisure and relaxed-fit clothing.

Until now, I was never really willing to invest in stylish athleisure clothing. I’ve been wearing the same GapFit racerback tanks to work out for the past 8 years. I just figured that the gym was the gym, and I could save my spending money on a cute summer dress instead. But now, in my quest to be both comfortable and dressed, I’ve started to covet items like tie-dye crewnecks, wool slippers, and crop tops with shelf bras as though they were the hottest part of a new spring collection. 

And so, for the sake of comfort and the purpose of fitness, I splurged on a lovely green moss-colored set of high waisted leggings and a cropped tank. The result? When I put it on, it doesn’t feel like I’m just getting ready to work out. It feels like I treated myself to a nice new outfit that boosts my confidence. Would this have been the case 2 months ago? Maybe briefly, but I doubt that it would have replaced the feeling of getting dressed in the morning the way it does now.

So if yoga pants and a t-shirt feel like they serve your purpose more than your office jeans and a blazer, you do you. If a maxi floral dress helps you embrace spring and push the scaries away, that’s perfect too. Since we are dressing much more for ourselves right now, we can revel in the fact that our choices are about what makes us feel good, instead of how we think others should see us.