I’ve recently started to work from home. What should I wear?
Sara, by email
An excellent question and one I ask myself most days, because I generally work from home and while working from home does remove certain quandaries from your life – such as: “How long can I tolerate this commute until sweet death releases me?” and: “Sweet Jesus, how many times is Geoff from Accounts going to clear his throat, does he have a literal frog down there and, if so, can I go over and pull it out with my fist?” – others take their place. Nature, vacuum, etc.
So while I no longer, thank goodness, have to endure the London tube every rush hour, I do find myself facing daily existential questions such as: “How do I stop myself from snacking from the fridge literally all goddamn day?” and: “If I’m not actually leaving the house, do I have to leave my bed?”
Questions, questions. Clothing, of course, comes under this umbrella of new questions. Why bother to dress if you’re not going outside? To quote that famous philosophical saying, “If you wear an unironed shirt and no one sees it, was the shirt actually ironed?”
The new homeworker tends to go through three phases with their clothes before settling down into something that works. The first is the pyjama phase, when you’re so excited about no longer having to go into an office that you celebrate by staying in your pyjamas for a day, three days, maybe five – what does it matter, right?
But the thrill quickly wanes, partly because the postman starts giving you looks (and, as a homeworker, you will now be the drop-off depot for all of your neighbours’ Amazon, Asos, Argos, Ikea, Boots and John Lewis deliveries, so you will see an awful lot of your postman). But mainly because it starts to feel gross. Working in your pyjamas is a lot like working from bed (and the two often go together): it seems like such a great idea when you start, but you realise that if you’re dressed for bed, your brain will thinks it’s bedtime and totally fuzz out. So, not pyjamas is the first rule of homeworking.
The next phase is when you react against pyjamas by dressing up – as if you’re going to work. This works for some people. Putting on a suit or smart dress gets them in the work mindset, I guess. I have a friend who likes to work from home in party dresses, as they make her feel like she is a) on it and b) having fun, even though she is sitting in her living room and knocking out more advertising copy.
And that’s great – give that a go, see if it works for you. It absolutely never did for me. It just felt silly, as if I was some pathetic character in a movie, possibly one directed by the Coen brothers, who had been sacked and now sat at home in his suit, pretending nothing had happened.
So, as I tend to do in all things, I go for the middle option (#centristhomeworker) and dress in clothes that are as comfortable as pyjamas but aren’t actually pyjamas. For me, this means cheering tracksuit bottoms, T-shirts, and slim-fitting jumpers. What do I mean by “cheering tracksuit bottoms”? Glad you asked! Ones that are not shapeless and depressing, but fit nicely, are colourful, and maybe even have rainbow stripes down the side. Asos.com is your answer here, and as you now work from home you’ll be there to accept its deliveries. I find that wearing a slim-fitting jumper – not a massive baggy thing that flops annoyingly over your hands when you’re typing – makes the tracksuit feel a little smarter so your brain doesn’t go into fuzz-out mode.
As a kid, when I imagined my adult life, I sort of imagined myself as dressing like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, striding around in a skirt suit. Instead, I sit around at home all day in a tracksuit. And because I’m such an adult, I’m good with that.