Why I Still Get Dressed Every Day to Work from Home
Yes, I could wear fuzzy PJs all day as I work. But here's why I don't (and maybe you shouldn't, either).
If you’re suddenly working from home because of the coronavirus, you’re likely still adapting to your new reality. Between trying to carve out a work niche at home, finding new ways to collaborate with colleagues—and, in many cases, adjusting to families sharing your space (not to mention, trying to keep pets from Zoombombing your conference calls)—it can be a lot of change at once.
As someone who has worked at home for the bulk of 20 years, one of the biggest pieces of advice I have—one that will help you draw the line between work and home—is to get out of your pajamas by noon. (Try it, you’ll thank me later.) Getting dressed daily is, after all, one of the 13 golden rules for working from home.
Working from home, the early years
To fulfill my dream of becoming a freelance magazine writer, in 2000, I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon, where I fell in love with the trails, the microbrews, and the better quality of life. While I’d enjoyed my eight years as an editor in magazine offices in NYC, I knew that by choosing freelance writing over editing, I was also choosing to work at home. It didn’t take much adjustment on my part.
Rather than adhering to a rigid schedule of “being at your desk at certain times,” I could tap into my natural rhythm instead, discovering what windows of time are my most productive (mid-morning and late-afternoon), and when is my best time for exercise (mid-day).
After exercising, and before my afternoon writing spurt, though, I religiously do one thing: I take a shower, dry my hair, put on makeup (usually eyeliner and mascara, always lipstick) and dress for work. This ritual puts me into the work mentality and lets me focus for the afternoon.
Mornings are another story, where my wardrobe has been known to resemble The Big Lebowski‘s Dude. In the morning, I get into my zone better when I’m wearing, yes, my pajamas—maybe it’s because by not “getting ready” for work, I’m subconsciously taking the pressure off (handy for times of writers’ block). Frankly, I don’t know why it works, but that’s the beauty of working at home—you get to discover what works for you.
Knowing when you’re at your peak is also recommended by this creative consultant who has likewise worked from home successfully for 20 years.
My years as a misfit
While I’d never imagined setting foot in an office again when I moved to Portland, the economy had other plans. In 2010, after nearly 20 years in magazines, I briefly tried on another career: public relations.
“We don’t normally hire people like you, but we’re desperate,” the president said upon offering me the job, looking me up and down in my shirtdress and Fluevog heels. My attire, as it turned out, was deemed too “creative” for this Devil Wears Prada-type agency, ironically located in laid-back Portland. Equally, ironically, I never encountered this fashion snobbery during my NYC days, when Doc Martens, thick tights, kilts, and cardigans were on heavy wardrobe rotation among me and my magazine coworkers in the ’90s.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m equally fumbly among the dress-down culture of Portland, too. After one infamous interview at a large sportswear company, where I was the only one not wearing jeans (and a certain brand of tennis shoes), I decided that any dress culture felt stifling.
Back full circle
I’m now back to writing full-time in my home office for a year now, and it feels like I’m home—in more ways than literal. I’m also back to my ritual of dressing for my afternoons.
It’s not about what I’m wearing per se, it’s more about the action of getting into my work mode. Wearing the right outfit helps me turn the home mode off and focus. (Just remember, it’s equally important to give yourself flexibility from your norm, too. I haven’t gotten out of my yoga pants all day today, for example, if you must know, and it’s 3 p.m.)
My style has always leaned more Diane Keaton than Diane Von Furstenberg. Although, I’ve also turned in some of my best work while wearing a wrap dress. More eclectic than, say, elegant. Mismatched socks. Blazers with jeans and flip flops. Dresses over leggings. Sometimes a floppy hat. Always a scarf. Shawls occupy a large part of my closet. But I’ve discovered a style that helps me focus on my work, and for that I feel fortunate.
So, if you’re struggling to adjust to working at home, now might be a good time to experiment with your work dress. See what makes you most comfortable, allows you to tap into your work zone. Maybe it’s a wrap dress (or a bowtie). Maybe (like me) it’s a scarf, like the one I’m wearing here in my first virtual photoshoot on a FaceTime with my mom. Or maybe it really is those fuzzy slippers with mismatched socks. Whatever your work-wardrobe muse, now’s the time to find it. I hope you do.