Working from home has become the new normal for many businesses, but just because you’ve adopted a “work from home” lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to turn your sweatpants into your new uniform.
So where do we draw the line between formal and casual while working from home?
Are video meetings automatically more casual than in-person meetings? If you ask us, it depends. There are both advantages and disadvantages to dressing up and to dressing down for doing business over video from your home office.
In this post, we’ll dig into:
- Whether or not to wear a full suit when working from home
- The role your office wardrobe plays on work psychology
- How to read the room to find a balance between formal and casual
To suit, or not to suit?
Here are two contrasting ways to look at the question of formal or casual wear for video meetings.
First, you’re at home. The people you’re video conferencing with probably expect you to leave your suit in the closet and pick out something more comfortable. If you aren’t planning on video conferencing, you can probably skip the suit.
But at the same time, even though you’re working from home, you’re still at work. So how far should you go to look the part? Even if you’ve already decided not to wear your most expensive heels or tie, you might want to put together something more in the business casual category, besides, who wouldn’t want to look sharp when your video meeting platform has HD video?
Our humble opinion? It’s hard to go wrong with a patterned button-down:
Don’t go for gym clothes, but don’t don full boardroom regalia either.
In the end, it’s all about balance.
The psychology of your office outfit
It’s important to remember that what you wear to work sends subtle psychological messages to your brain, informing your perception of your role in the workplace.
Here’s what a team of professional social scientists wrote in their study, “The impact of workplace attire on employee self-perceptions,” published in the Human Resource Development Quarterly:
“Respondents felt most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire. Significant two-way interactions were found between dress preference and mode of dress worn on self-perceptions of productivity, trustworthiness, creativity, and friendliness.”
And the psychological triggers that come from either casual or formal attire are just as important when you’re planning to spend your day working from home over video meetings as when you’re dressing for a workday in the office.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to seek out a balance between traits like authoritative and friendly, competent and comfortable.
Because in addition to how your work-from-home attire makes you feel, it also communicates an unspoken message to the person on the other end of your video call.
Read the room to find your balance
It’s also worth pointing out that business in general has become more casual in recent years and that the shift towards casual has increased people’s confidence, comfort, and focus.
But this doesn’t mean that your business interactions—regardless of whether they happen in-person or online—should abandon all the formalities of office life.
In addition to the importance of balance, this is also a question of perception. Even if you’re working from home, you’ll still have to answer questions like:
- How can you instill confidence in your clients?
- How can you motivate and inspire your team?
- How can you provide comfort or calm for your employees?
- How can you help others perceive you to be as focused and productive as ever, even though you’re working from a home office or even your kitchen table?
Your wardrobe is a great way to influence your colleagues’ perception (not to mention your own perception) of you.
Dress the part, even when working from home
When you’re working remotely and relying on video meetings (by using software like RingCentral Video, for example), as your primary source of connection, it’s worth it to put a little more effort into your outfit than you normally would when left to your own devices at home.
Find that balance and dress the part in honor of your colleagues and your clients, but don’t forget the good it will do you too.
Originally published Apr 18, 2020, updated Aug 12, 2020