The number of employees who regularly work from home but are not self-employed has risen 103% since 2005 according to Global Workplace Analytics. In fact, 50% of the US workforce now holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework. This indicates that numbers will continue to rise. Has this workplace environment shift changed the appearance of the American professional? Indeed it has, and work-from-home attire is not always pretty.
Work-from-Home Attire and Hygiene Trends
Recent surveys of the work-at-home employed have brought to light trends in fashion and personal hygiene that are a startling departure from office environment driven choices.
A small contingent of the work-at-home community carry on exactly as they did before when working in a public environment—minus the commute. They rise early, shower, shave, perhaps drink coffee or peruse the morning paper. They dress as proper adults in what might once have been termed business casual attire. And they report to designated work areas in the home to work a standard number of hours. These are the disciplined few.
The majority of the work-at-home employed who once may have thought nothing of buying hundred-dollar button-down shirts, Italian leather shoes, or various and sundry dry-clean-only attire have now shockingly slashed their monthly clothing allowances by 90% or more in favor of pajama bottoms and rock band t-shirts. We fear for the fate of dry cleaning establishments should the number of telecommuters continue to rise. We suggest they diversify and invest in yoga pant manufacturing.
It’s a brave new world. The workforce uniform consists almost entirely of either athletic wear or sleepwear. However, most folks are neither sleeping nor participating in athletics at any point during their productive work day. For example, every woman polled reported wearing yoga pants and t-shirts regularly. However, a minuscule percentage practice yoga other than the occasional tree pose while at a standing desk or spontaneous chair pose should they miss their desk chair entirely after disposing of their empty midmorning cereal bowl.
A lot has changed since we picked out our interview clothes.
What to Wear Where
The frequent wearing of sleepwear during the day has produced what we call the pajama classification system. Low-class pajamas are somewhat indecent and are worn only for actual sleep at night. Many classify these as unacceptable either due to their level of wear or style. Either of these may make the wearer appear scantily clad. Middle-class pajamas are acceptable for daytime work attire and will not shock or appall the random postal carrier or FedEx delivery person at the door. High-class pajamas are often matching sets and, when accessorized with jackets and real shoes, may be worn farther afield for errands like collecting children from the bus stop or emergency runs to the office supply store.
Those Teleconferences Though
Another phenomenon created to navigate this new work environment is the mullet outfit—business on the top, party on the bottom. What about work-at-home professionals who still need to visually engage with clients or business associates working in the more traditional office environment? They often leave a real shirt or cardigan hanging on the back of the door for emergency video conferences, or pair an austere blouse and suit jacket with flannel, banana-printed bottoms.
A large percentage of work-at-home employees are highly satisfied with their jobs as we’ve discussed before. Employers report significantly increased productivity despite grungy work-from-home attire. That’s been our experience. We love it, and our clients do too.