An anonymous commenter had this request:
I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for those of us who work at home. I am lucky enough to do so, but it means that 3-4 days out of the week, I don’t leave the house and only have contact with other people online. As a result, I tend to wear comfy t-shirts and pants most of the time and my nicer things hang in my closet, rarely getting worn. There are times when I really feel stuck in a stay-at-home wardrobe rut, but the fact is, no one is going to see me and I need to be comfortable sitting at my computer all day. Any suggestions on how to change up my home office uniform?
I’ve been an office worker for about 12 years, so I’m yet to grapple with these issues myself. But whenever I hunker down for an at-home marathon of work/brainstorming/writing, I do so in my scrubs. Which makes me wonder: When I’m finally my own boss, will my wardrobe languish as I peck away at my keyboard wearing an oversized sweatshirt and PJ pants? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Dressing for the home office will pose different challenges for different women, and I think the key is to suss out your wants and needs, then create some personal parameters. When you work at home, you make all the rules, but that doesn’t mean that you should pretend there aren’t any rules. You’re the boss. So, ya know, MAKE SOME RULES. But be reasonable about them, and make sure they suit your working style and working needs.
- Who is in the house with you? Do you have young kids? Pets? Any other beings in the vicinity who’d make truly dressy work duds utterly impractical? While I love to imagine myself dressed to the nines in my little home-office, my overly-affectionate lap-hogging kitties would ruin my favorite clothes. Consider which clothes will work with your non-working office-mates.
- How does dressing up affect you? Many people feel more focused and productive when dressed in smart work attire, myself included. But some feel more creative and relaxed in super-comfies, and merely feel confined in office-appropriate clothing. Where do you fall? One side or the other? Somewhere in-between?
- Where does guilt factor in? So. You worked in an office for a decade then started telecommuting. And your closet full of work duds is mocking you as you IM your boss from the coffeetable wearing naught but a bathrobe. Tell me this: If you switched careers from being an English teacher to being a firefighter, would you think twice about getting a new wardrobe? No, you would NOT. Now, if your answer to question #2 was, “I feel more focused and productive when I dress up,” that’s one thing. Make yourself gussy if gussying helps you feel gorgeous and/or effective. But if your dressing choices don’t affect your self-image or productivity, consider changing your closet instead of your behavior. I’m not advocating schlubbiness, believe me, but I think that many home-workers drown themselves in unnecessary clothing-related guilt.
Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to make a plan.
- If you have pets or kiddos to contend with, some of your clothing will be relegated to outside-the-home wearings. Segregate your closet accordingly.
- If you feel more alert and engaged in dressy duds, create some reasonable parameters for yourself: Dress up Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, down Tuesday and Friday. Create reasons to dress up: Spend Monday and Thursday afternoons working from a WiFi-equipped coffee shop or library, schedule weekly meetings or video-conferences. Set personal rules for how you look while working from home, and stick to them.
- If you’ve determined that comfort is your top priority now that your home is your office, move your dressier clothing out of the closet to avoid guilt/mockage. I would encourage you to prevent your casual-comfy looks from becoming entirely pajama-fied. Dark-wash jeans, leggings, boots, over-sized sweaters, tunics, jersey-knit blazers, waterfall cardigans, sweater dresses, scarves, ponte-knit pants, ballet flats … all of these items are supremely comfy, but also chic. See if you can strike a happy medium between comfort and style.
No matter what ya do, DON’T purge out every last office-appropriate item you own. Jobs change, the economy shifts, important meetings with important bigwigs crop up. Store, don’t donate. Or store the creme de la creme and donate the rest.
Those of you who work from home, how do you dress? Do pets and kids affect your attire? Do you feel more focused when you’re dressed up or dressed down? Have you grappled with officewear-related guilt? How do these guidelines strike you? Anything to add?
Image courtesy Mish Mish.