Inspired by the stylish outfits of my collaboration partner, Gretchen Wegner, I challenged myself to get out of my comfy clothes, and dress up for 30 days to attempt to answer the questions:
- Does dressing up matter when we work remotely?
- To what extent does it affect our psyche?
- In what ways does it affect how people interact with us?
- Does it affect our productivity?
So for 30 days, I wore 30 different “outfits” and observed what happened next.
Does dressing up matter when we work remotely?
My conclusion is that for me, dressing up matters – and only because I’m visible to others. If I didn’t have video interaction with people, dressing up wouldn’t play an important role for me. But I host interviews and have client meetings with video (about 4 hours per day). Because I am obviously giving attention to both my look and my environment, dressing up becomes an intentional gesture that shows I care about what I do.
Not dressing up doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t care – but when you attend to the details of your appearance and the space around you, people will notice.
My room divider got a lot of attention. While not a perfect background, it looks professional enough, and it hides the bed that is right behind me.
The room divider has the added effect of separating my personal space from my professional space. When I put the room divider up in the morning, it feels like I’m going to the office. I didn’t realize before how important a factor that could be.
I’ve also set up a lighting system so that when the sun goes down, I’m still well lit. There’s just something unprofessional about being lit up by the light of your monitor in a dark room.
To what extent does dressing up affect our psyche as remote workers?
I will admit, that there is a difference in the way that I feel when I dress up. I don’t know if this would be the case if I couldn’t see myself in the video conferences. But since I can see myself, dressing up makes me feel like I’m taking my meetings and myself more seriously. I have to wonder if it’s the seeing part that makes me take myself more seriously – or the way I feel in my body when I dress up that makes a difference? My gut says it’s the seeing part that matters – but I can’t prove it.
In what ways does dressing up affect how people interact with us as remote workers?
My clients definitely noticed. Without mentioning anything about the Try-on-athon, one client saw me and immediately said something about how nice I looked. She said that if she were meeting me for the first time, she’d think that I meant business! Another client popped on to a video conference and said “Wow! You look really good. Is there something special going on?” (“Yes!” I said. “The Try-on-athon!”).
My friends noticed via the social media posts I made about it. I went to a birthday party last weekend and one of my friends was dressed very snazzy and said that the Try-on-athon had inspired her to wear some fancier clothes.
Even my boyfriend noticed and started commenting on clothes he’d never seen before! And my boyfriend’s family noticed because I was wearing nicer outfits when I visited them after work.
Now, it’s hard to say whether everyone was reacting because there was such a contrast to what I had been dressing like. And noticing is different than interacting. But when one client wore pajamas to one meeting, he called it his Try-OFF-athon – and there was a lovely playfulness that created a bonding experience by giving us an opportunity to share something personal in a fun way.
Gretchen and I often dress up as a playful way to celebrate something we’ve been working on. In this case, we’re having virtual pie!
Does dressing up affect our productivity as remote workers?
For years I’ve been tracking what I work on and the number of hours I work every week. So I can honestly say that dressing up did not affect my productivity. I did just as much work in my comfy clothes as I did in my professional outfits.
Other things I noticed
It was very difficult to dress up every single day. One of the days on my work holiday, I was working in a room that was so cold I had to wear a jacket. I’ve decided that on the days where I don’t have video meetings, I allow myself a “comfy” day. After all, that is one of the benefits of working remotely!
I learned that accessories (necklaces and scarves) and hair styles can go a long way! I learned that I don’t like patterns on my clothes. I also learned that white, pink and red are my most flattering colors on video (and probably in real life too).
I was shocked at the number of people who emailed me and asked about the Try-on-athon! What started out as a joke, has turned into my most successful and fun experiment to date!
If I were going to narrow down everything I’ve learned to 3 tips, I would say that if you are visible to others as a remote worker:
- Put some thought into dressing nicely and arranging a nice space. It shows you care.
- Having good lighting, while not always easy to do, is important and looks more professional.
- Sometimes it’s good to run experiments just for the fun of running the experiment.
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This morning during mywork session with Lisette, I was in my pjs and my hair messy and unbrushed (exactly the way it was when I woke up). I worked that way until about 2pm, when I just didn’t feel like I had the oomph anymore to keep working. So… after a break, I finally washed my face and got dressed in a fun, playful outift, and now I feel like working again! So in the case of today…how I dress DID up my productivity. However, I’m not sure it’s the actual clothes; instead, I think it’s the change of “personality” that comes with changing clothes. Also, as self-employed people we have CHOICE in what to wear — whether to be slovenly or not. We *also* have choice about what we wear on the upper half versus the lower half. You didn’t reflect on that at all, Lisette, but I’d be curious to hear how often your tryonathon was just hte top half of your body?! There’s something about having choice that creates motivation…
I tend to get up, do the school run in my tracksuit and stay that way until around lunchtime, when as Gretchen says, you feel the need to freshen up. So I shower, get changed and then am ready for an afternoon’s awesomeness!