Could what you wear to WFH be affecting your productivity?

Posted by Victoria Lochhead on

This week, one of my clients said to me “What’s the point in making an effort to look nice, to dress in something other than my comfy home clothes, when I’m not going anywhere and the only other person who’ll see me is my husband?”
And this is an excellent point.
Why? Why make effort to ‘get ready’ when you WFH (work from home)? There’s also such a time saving from not having to do your make up, or decide on an outfit, plus home clothes are probably more practical to sit and work from home and/ or pop out to walk the dog in. The only time many of us see people outside our immediate family has been via a screen, so even then it’s a wonder what a dash of lipstick, or throwing on a necklace can do, it’s all very simple, quick and easy. You can see the attraction.
But are we perhaps missing a trick? Are there some positives to be gained from ‘getting ready’, from pulling a favourite but impractical shirt out of the wardrobe instead of the usual tee? Is there any reason to make effort with our appearance, other than not having the Amazon delivery driver confusing us for ‘Thriller’ extras?
Well, there just might be.
Enclothed Cognition is a term that describes how clothes can impact not just how others see us, but how we feel about ourselves, how we think, how we perform, and yes, perhaps even how productive we are. This short and sweet video explains what enclothed cognition is and how it works:
So, with the clothes hanging in our wardrobes, we will have developed a subconscious association with them, either in terms of how they make us feel, who they make us feel we are, and how confident we feel in them, and we learn to do this early on in life (just remember the dressing up box of childhood and how instantly you became a ‘nurse’ or a ‘policeman’ just from a few simple items of clothing). It stands to reason then, that we can create our own ‘costumes’ to help us feel more confident, or more productive, or however we want to feel for what we’re about to do (superman suit, anyone?).
The potential problem when working from home is we end up wearing clothes we subconsciously associate with relaxing, or with weekends off, or even with going to bed. If we're not separating our 'home relaxing' clothes from our 'home working' clothes, we could be sending the brain the wrong signals about what we want to achieve, and ultimately this could make us less productive.
If this has resonated with you, try an experiment this week - choose a day and just wear clothes or pyjamas that you associate with being at home. Then choose another day and put on something that you would consider a great outfit (either something for work, or just something you feel good in).  Dress as if you were going out to meet a client, give that presentation, or catch up with a friend.  At the end of each day, review how you felt - were you more effective on one day or the other?  On which day did you feel more confident?  What effect did the clothes have on your happiness, if any?  Were there discernible changes in how successful you would consider your day to have been?
If you did feel there was a difference in your day that was influenced by the clothes you wore, then you could get enclothed cognition working for you. Create for yourself a series of work ‘uniforms’ - pick a few favourite work outfits from the wardrobe that you have positive associations with, and just use these clothes purely for work (you only need 12 items of clothing to make 72 different outfit combinations – one of the things we learn in Sustainable Style Studio!) The more you create work associations with those clothes, the quicker your brain will get into ‘work mode’ once you’re dressed and, perhaps more importantly, will allow you to get out of work mode when your working day is done. As soon as you close the laptop, change into your relaxing clothes to help your brain switch off from work.
If you liked this experiment and it worked for you, please do share it with friends to see if it works for them too. I'd love to know how you get on, so please do share your comments below.

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