During the COVID-19 crisis, many people’s jobs are migrating from the office to their homes. While finally being able to work in your PJs might seem like the dream, Zachary Kevorkian has some thoughts on why you still might want to dress to impress when working from home.  

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” But what if you already have the job you want? What if you work from home? How should you dress then? Should you even dress up at all? As the world is transitioning into a work-at-home environment and many people are facing the challenges that come with working from home for the first time, these questions suddenly gain a certain significance.

If you had asked me these questions only a few years ago, I would’ve happily said, “Unless someone says otherwise, I’ll dress how I want, whenever I want.” However, this all changed when I started graduate school for medical illustration. Suddenly, people were saying otherwise. There was a dress code to be followed, and I refused to follow along. Why? Because I’m an artist—that’s why! I felt that how I dressed was part of how I expressed myself. Wearing a suit and tie would only stifle my creativity, man! As if my talents as an artist were intrinsically linked to the clothes I wore.

Lesson 1: It starts the day off right and puts you into a work mindset. 

As we all make this transition into a remote environment, many news outlets, books, and blogs will all talk about strategies for working from home and about establishing a routine. This includes setting a schedule and creating a productive workspace—all in order to project to others and yourself that it is time for work. Before working remotely, getting dressed was the first part of your routine, so why does that routine need to change just because you’re working from home? Trust me, getting dressed for the day is a significantly easier task when you don’t have to commute in traffic. It may seem small, but generally, you wear your clothes all day. Schedules can change and set workspaces can be compromised (which I’ve been told is especially true if you have children), but clothes can act as a constant reminder to you—and others—that it is time to work.

Lesson 2: It gives you confidence.

It’s no secret that how we dress can affect how we feel, and dressing nicely is one way to feel more confident and competent at our jobs. When I dress up for work (even though I’ll only be seen through a small webcam) and people compliment me on my tie, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel more confident in myself, and I’m able to carry that energy throughout the day.  Not only does respect from our peers make us feel more confident, but this confidence also comes from the commitment to the routine.  Perhaps you’re behind on a project, or maybe that last meeting didn’t go so well—these things happen. However, having a routine and sticking to it can help you feel more confident about completing a task.

Lesson 3: It increases your productivity.

Wearing a tie everyday makes me feel confident and professional. Additionally, it establishes a certain expectation among my colleagues. As my relationship with my peers improved, so did my work. I noticed that I was getting more done, spending less time questioning decisions I was making, and not staying up as late trying to finish projects. This gave me more time for myself, meaning less stress both inside and outside of work. There is also plenty of evidence that suggests dress can have a serious effect on our productivity. One study shows how dressing up can make us feel more confident and authoritative and another study showed that dressing up can improve our cognitive and creative thinking (which blows my original argument for not dressing up out of the water!)

Lesson 4: People start to notice you.

This one made me feel uncomfortable at first. After all, I was doing this to help me, establish routine for my life—not to get extra attention. But when I started my experiment, my wearing a tie every day drew attention (and it still does!) Indeed, it has become part of my workplace personality and part of why I’m writing this piece. Basically, no good deed goes unpunished…

However, now I realize that it’s okay to garner that positive attention sometimes and that it can be good for your self-esteem. This isn’t a negative thing. There are significantly worse things to be known for in your workspace. Better to be singled out for dressing nicely than to be singled out for something else. Dressing up can act as a way to distinguish yourself from your colleagues and establish that you treat yourself and your job in a professional manner.

Lesson 5: How you dress is not just a reflection of you.

There’s a reason parents get angry at the children for not dressing nicely or when my partner complains about my stubble. It’s because how I look is a reflection not only on myself, but also on them. If I look like a slob, people might make that same judgment about the people around me. This same principle applies to any organization. When you’re dealing with a client on your company’s behalf, you’re a reflection of not only your company but also how your company conducts their business. When you dress professionally, people will treat you like a professional and make that positive connection to the work that you do and the company you work with. It adds an amount of authority when you conduct business and lets people know that you take your work and your organization seriously. 

This article was originally published on Osmosis.org, a health education platform providing millions of current and future clinicians and caregivers with the best learning experience possible through engaging videos, practice questions, and high-yield notes. To explore more of Osmosis’s COVID-19 content, visit their COVID-19 resources page.

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