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Working from home has changed a lot of things, hasn’t it?
Some of us are commuting from the bedroom to the basement. Negotiating with partners and kids for workspace and bandwidth. Connecting with colleagues and clients only on virtual platforms and feeling Zoomed-out as a result.
And some of us have gotten, well, casual about our work wardrobe. Turns out that may not be our best move.
What you wear can have an impact on your productivity and your mood.
Psychologist Jordana Jacobs says dressing well for your Zoom calls is part of self-care, like getting enough sleep or eating nutritious food. Treating yourself well boosts your self-esteem.
And sitting around in the same sweatpants day after day does the opposite. I’m not judging … there are days we just don’t feel like getting gussied up and trudging to our home office or kitchen table.
Turns out the days when we least feel like dressing for work are the days it’s most important to do it anyway. Because we feel better when we’re dressed for business.
Color can be part of that.
Dr. Jacobs told Popsugar it’s smart to choose the color that makes you comfortable in your own skin. “What is most important is dressing in a way that makes you feel even more you.”
And there can be more to color choices. The color you wear can influence your mood and have an impact on the people you interact with, even when those interactions are happening on a virtual platform.
Beyond that, one of the WFH challenges is blurred boundaries.
We might be working at all hours, because now home and office are the same place. There’s no clear delineation between business time and family time so work spills over.
Managers sometimes fear the opposite—they worry the team is slacking off because home and office are the same place. What if they’re playing with their kids instead of finishing that report?
Jacobs says it can help to “switch hats” when we move from business time to personal time in the same place. “Switching outfits, turning on different music, lighting candles or incense, can all help create the much-needed differentiation between work and life.”
There’s evidence we even think differently, depending on what we wear. Enclothed cognition theory was first tested by a couple of Northwestern University professors. They found people performed better on attention-related tasks when they wore a doctor’s lab coat. Because they associate attentiveness and carefulness with the practice of medicine.
And then there’s what the others think.
So, we’re likely to feel more positive and more businesslike too when we’re dressed for business, even if we’re doing business from the corner of our family room.
Likewise, the people we meet on Teams or Zoom see us in a different light when we spiff it up a little bit.
Yes, it’s tempting to plop down at the desk in a T-shirt and our errands-on-Saturday jeans. Make-up feels optional. Maybe we’ll do something with our hair. Or maybe not.
We’ll create a much better impression on our colleagues or clients when we show up on their screen looking professional and ready for business.
What does that mean, exactly?
Wear a shirt with a collar. Or at least have one hanging over the back of your desk chair so you can put it on over your T-shirt before you sign into a meeting. At this point, the Zoom Shirt is a staple for some guys.
Yes, your golf shirt has a collar. You’re still better off with a woven-not-knit, button-up-the-front shirt. See shoulder definition …
Shoulder definition is a fine thing. Choose a shirt or jacket that has a seam at the shoulders rather than a sweater or shawl that gives a softer, rounder silhouette. Soft and round is wonderful for holding a child on your lap. Edges create a more professional profile.
Solid colors are screen-friendly. Stay away from small prints that can pixilate or blur on the screen. Shiny fabrics can be a problem too—and I say that as a woman with too many silk jackets in her closet.
Ready for your close-up? When you’re sitting at your laptop, your face is the focal point. They may see your shoulders and upper torso, but your face is front-and-center. If a messy bun is your look, go for it. Otherwise, style your hair and put on a little make-up before you sit in front of the camera. It makes a huge difference in how people see you.
Men aren’t generally using cosmetics for every meeting on Zoom. And, it’s worth noting that male TV professionals and speakers at high-level virtual conferences do wear a bit of make-up for the camera.
Business casual? Or business casual?
I get push-back sometimes. “But our organization is business casual.”
My suggestion: put the emphasis on business rather than casual. Instead of thinking about what you can get away with, consider what serves you well.
Every interaction is an opportunity for colleagues, clients, and the big cheese to form an opinion of us. It’s not that they’re judgmental. That’s just the way humans operate.
We see you, we hear you, and we develop an impression of you.
Over time, those impressions compound and we decide that you’re an asset to the company. You’re the consultant we should hire. You’re somebody we might be able to do without.
Or … well there are a lot of ways we might think of you. All of them are shaped by what we see when we look at you and what we hear when you speak. When we’re seeing and hearing you on a virtual platform, you’ll benefit from showing up on the screen like the professional you are.
Or maybe you’re committed to that souvenir sweatshirt?
Post a comment here to share your thoughts about dressing for Zoom success.