Changing Your Clothes May Increase Productivity

Tracy Stengel by Christina @ on Unsplash

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.” — Diana Vreeland

How I met Mr. Perfect At-Home Employee

At a pre-COVID-19 dinner party, I was introduced to an executive for a large company. When his wife had their baby, he’d somehow convinced his supervisor he could be just as productive working at home. This was long before working remotely was the norm.

The evening I met him, he’d been working from home for over ten years and it was working out well for him and the company.

“The secret”, he said, “is I still set the alarm clock, take a shower, shave and get dressed. That means dress pants, a shirt, and tie. Then, I eat a quick breakfast and take my coffee ‘to-go’ downstairs to my office. I’m at my desk — without fail — at eight o’clock sharp, Monday through Friday.”

He had my full attention. I listened to him, incredulous … waiting for the punchline.

There wasn’t one.

I wiggled in my seat nervously anticipating the inevitable, “Ah, well, Tracy works at home, too.”

And, of course, it came.

I glared at the instigator and shot Mr. Perfect At-Home Employee a closed-mouth smile. “Yeah, well your way isn’t exactly how I do it.”

All I wanted to do was change the subject.

I didn’t care to admit, most summer days, I’m typing on the deck in a bathing suit and cover up. I’ve stocked up on them and my husband refers to the look as my “uniform”. In the colder months, I’ve made sure I have plenty of yoga pants and cozy pajamas to choose from.

I’m sure Mr. Perfect wouldn’t have approved of me knocking off early on glorious, sunny days to go paddle boarding or when my neighbor suggests an afternoon happy hour.

Now everybody’s doing it

Since the world turned on its head in March, there’s a lot of people who know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s easy to get lax when it comes to how we look while we’re working.

Some companies are concerned employees aren’t as productive when they aren’t dressed in business attire and are considering a work-at-home dress code.

A lot of people may scoff at that and think it’s an overreach.

As long as we aren’t video conferencing, who cares if we’re sprawled out on the couch in our underwear? If the work is getting done, it’s nobody’s biz, right? Please pass the Doritos.

Well, not so fast.

According to a survey of 1,000 remote workers by CouponFollow, nearly half said they don’t wear professional attire when working from home. A whopping 29% of employees admitted they worked at home in the nude.

Maybe there’s valid cause for concern? (I find that last stat very concerning. 29%? Who are these people?)

Why we may be hindering our productivity

There is science-based evidence that working in our skivvies puts us in the wrong mindset to take care of business efficiently.

According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, when people dress down, their attention isn’t as focused as when wearing business attire. That may be compounded with our distractions that are inherent when working at home such as your dog whining at the door, seeing dirty dishes piling up, or home schooling your children due to COVID. interviewed Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD, to find out how wearing pajamas or leisurewear affects our brains.

“What many might deem insignificant can actually lead to dwindling motivation and productivity as you subconsciously associate your pajamas with bedtime or relaxation time,” Dr. Dragonette tells us. “Just as it is ideal to have a designated workspace, it is also important not to let work pervade all of your home life,” she says. “Changing into and out of clothing for your workday can help to set a psychological marker between private time and work time.”

Maybe rocking those pajamas isn’t such a smart idea if you want to shift your brain into gear instead of letting it idle. If you are resisting dressing in business attire while working at home, consider wearing athletic apparel that you don’t associate with sleep time or cozying up to a fire.

I’m guessing Dr. Dragonette would call working from bed a no-no, too. by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Work might not be so much fun anymore

Dr. Dragonette said studies show wearing nice clothing may alter the way we feel about our job.

“For example, people felt most authoritative, trustworthy and competent when wearing formal business attire, but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire.”

Pajamas may make us lazy and make our jobs seem boring and dull or too challenging. Sitting at home in a suit may feel ridiculous. Maybe a happy medium is the solution. Office-friendly career wear doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Try to find relaxed waistbands, breathable material, and pieces that don’t nip or bind.

It might affect our sleep.

“Wearing pajamas all day and not sticking with our usual schedules for work could cause a disruption in our internal biological clock and lead to sleep problems, along with low energy and moodiness. All these symptoms can lead to mental health problems down the road.” ~ Dr. Dragonette

We all know we’re crankier and less productive after a restless night. If you’re already prone to sleep issues, the luxury of wearing pajamas 24/7 may not be worth poor job performance or having less patience with children and your partner. And hasn’t our mental health been tested enough in 2020? by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash


After considering Dr. Dragonette’s advice and learning the results of science-based studies proving we are less productive in our pajamas, I may have to rethink my “uniform”. I don’t see myself putting on a blouse and heels just to head to my laptop, but there may be small changes I’m willing to make:

  • Wearing leisure wear instead of pajamas.
  • Wearing shoes instead of being barefoot or in slippers.
  • Working at my desk in the office downstairs instead of the couch or kitchen table. (I’m not giving up my seat on the deck in the summertime though. I’m only human!)
  • Setting regular work hours instead of working 16 hours one day and 4 the next.

I’m willing to give “change” a shot. Are you? Let me know in the comments!

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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