What are you wearing to work?

April 19, 2011


For freelancers, small-business operators and others who spend a lot of time working from home, it’s an ongoing question: what should you wear to work? Search online and you’ll find all sorts of opinions (including comments right here on the FreshBooks blog following Mike McDerment’s post on this very topic not so long ago). Some people adamantly argue that if you’re working from a home office you should still dress as if your office is elsewhere, because if you’re in leisure attire such as PJs or sweatpants your attitude towards work will also be leisurely. But others (such as one of the commentators on this post) insist that home-based workers should wear whatever they want, because no one sees you anyway and you’re more productive if you’re donning comfy clothes.

At a glance these opinions seem diametrically opposed, but in fact they share a common point of view: wear what’s comfortable for you – not only in a physical sense, but on a psychological level as well.

Think about how your clothes affect you – your mood, your outlook and your attitude. For some, business-casual clothing helps them get into a productive mindset and tackle work tasks more seriously. For others, it’s the opposite: business attire is stifling, impeding creativity and curtailing productivity.

Some people feel they’re doing their clients something of a disservice if they aren’t wearing clothes similar to those their customers wear. Others may go even further, believing that by dressing differently they somehow no longer belong to the communities they serve, and that impacts their ability to connect with clients.

The point is that you need to know how your clothes affect you, and how those underlying feelings affect your work habits. So no matter how adamant someone might be that one way of dressing is the right way, the truth is that the “right way” is going to be different for each person.

How do you go about figuring out what works for you? Consider asking yourself two questions:

Would I feel comfortable leaving the house wearing this? For many home-based business operators, this is the basic benchmark by which they measure true clothing comfort. If you wouldn’t want to be seen in public dressed this way, chances are you’re not wearing appropriate attire. Of course, that’s only a guideline – it isn’t a rule. Let’s face it, some people may find that they’re at their productive peak wearing clothes they wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing out of the house. Ultimately you’re looking for the balance between physical and psychological comfort that works for you.

Would I feel comfortable if my clients saw me wearing this? Companies depend on developing positive client relationships and most (probably all – it’d better be all) successful business operators are keenly aware of the importance of making a good impression. Superficial though it may be, the way you dress plays a big part in that. So would your clients be happy to see you wearing jeans? For some business owners, sure: many graphic designers meet customers while wearing designer jeans as a sort of uniform for the creative class. Would your customers find your wearing sweatpants distasteful? Not necessarily. Work-from-home personal trainers would probably do well to dress in athletic wear. Work-from-home productivity consultants, however, might have trouble impressing clients dressed in jeans or sweats. By acknowledging how you’d feel wearing certain items in front of customers you’ll go some way towards achieving that physical/ psychological balance.

One question for home-based business operators: what are you wearing right now?


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