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Why even in pandemic WFH conditions it's not OK to wear your bed clothes or dressing gown on a Zoom call

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
Mobile Office at home. Young woman in pajamas sitting on bed with pet dog working using on laptop pc computer at home. Lifestyle girl studying indoors. Freelance business quarantine concept
Regularly not getting dressed properly can have a negative impact on our productivity, mental wellbeing and even our careers. Photo: Getty

The days are getting shorter, darker and colder and lockdown part two is upon us, making it even harder to get going in the morning. With many of us working from home, it can be more than tempting to roll out of bed and throw on a dressing gown instead of getting dressed.

Understandably, loungewear has become the work outfit of choice for many remote workers. But as the months have dragged on, some people have taken things a step further by joining conference calls half-dressed or in their pyjamas.

According to a survey of more than 2,000 Brits gathered by uSwitch, four in 10 home-workers say they make more of an effort with their appearance before a video call, while a fifth have taken part in a video while secretly still in their nightwear. But is staying in your bed clothes all day really the right plan of action?

READ MORE: Why we need to take holidays and time off when working from home

We’re likely to be remote working for the foreseeable future and having a few lazy days in pyjamas is probably fine. But regularly not getting dressed properly can have a negative impact on our productivity, mental wellbeing and even our careers — especially if you have Zoom calls.

If you’re going to be working on your own at home all day, your boss or colleagues are likely to be none the wiser if you decide to stay in your bed clothes. But if you’re going to be on conference calls, this may well land you in trouble. Your manager may not appreciate you appearing to be unprepared, especially if you are going to see clients — albeit virtually.

Even if you’re having a productive working day, your boss may make a snap judgement about your dedication and engagement. You may have been solidly working from 7am, but turning up to a meeting in your pyjamas suggests you’ve rolled straight out of bed. This might be unfair — we are all having to adjust to a new way of working, particularly those with children — but it’s not worth risking your job in these economically difficult times.

READ MORE: How to lower the hidden costs of home working

Another key problem with working in our sleepwear is that we create mental associations between what we are doing, what we are wearing and where we are. Although home-workers may have the option to work in a dressing gown, research suggests that putting on actual clothes can get you in the right mindset for work and make you more productive.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that professionals perform better on tasks when wearing clothes with “symbolic meaning.” In the study, the Northwestern University researchers found that doctors were more focused and performed better at work when wearing a lab coat.

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“We introduce the term ‘enclothed cognition’ to describe the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes,” the authors wrote. “Three experiments demonstrate that wearing a lab coat increases attention. Attention did not increase when the coat was not worn or associated with a painter.”

Getting dressed can make you feel mentally better too. Although wearing pyjamas to work can feel like a luxury, wearing a “daytime” outfit may boost how you feel about yourself and your work. Research by Joy V. Peluchette and Katherine Karl published in 2007 found a distinct connection between what we wear to work in and how we perceive ourselves.

“Respondents felt most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire, but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire,” they wrote.

READ MORE: Can an employee's actions on Zoom get them fired?

Finally, getting dressed signals a shift in your working day. If you’re working from your bed, it can become far more difficult to switch off from work and get some rest at night because your brain will think you are in a place of work. The same can be said for what you are wearing, too.

This isn’t to say you need to wear a suit to sit at your kitchen table with your laptop. Instead, it might be worth mastering the art of getting dressed from the waist up — so you’ll look the part in a meeting, even if you’re still wearing jogging bottoms.