Even When I Work From Home, I Dress For Success

Woman in business suit on couchThat’s right, I wear power suits to work from home. Ok maybe not a power suit. A nice pair of dress pants and a sweater will do just fine.

I realize that working in your pajamas is a quintessential dream of the those toiling away in an office. I know that those of us working from home should be thrilled about sprawling out on the couch, comfortably lounging in yoga pants as we snack on popcorn or Doritos. This is the ideal, right?

Except that relaxation isn’t really conducive to my productivity. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been hard-wired to equate dress clothes with getting my job done, but the theory has some legs. Business casual seems to help me prepare for my day. The process of waking up and getting ready has an energizing effect that I never would have guessed when I was sleeping until ten in college.

There’s a reason that doctors encourage parents to set up a bed time routine for their children, the predictable procession of events sends your brain signals that it’s time to relax. Apparently, the same can be said for my mind in the morning. After brushing my teeth and applying a little mascara, my mind knows that it’s time to get to work.

Career experts have always used slogans like, “Dress for success.” They always assumed that you needed to look polished and professional because it will encourage your colleagues and supervisors to take you seriously. It’s possible that it also helps you get into character for your day. Who says you shouldn’t look the part of a professional just because no one else will see you?

And actually, getting dressed for the day makes me feel better about going out into the world and actually seeing someone other than my black lab. I enjoy being the mom at pre-school pick-up in high heels. I don’t mind sitting around in the dance studio waiting room in dress clothes.

These button-down shirts are part of who I am. Whether I work from home or spend my days in an office, I’m a business professional. For a woman in the middle of a career transition, it’s helpful to have something, even something as trivial as my wardrobe, stay consistent.

Working from home is so often denigrated in terms of professionalism and career success. People assume that it’s for mothers who aren’t actually interested in working full-time or climbing the corporate ladder. Friends and family ask me how my “time off” is going, as if I’m sitting around watching Grey’s Anatomy re-runs all day long.

I’m working, damnit! Even if I’m doing it from a recliner, I’m working. And throwing on a pencil skirt and blouse helps me establish, both mentally and to the world, that I’m still a professional. Maybe the day will come that I’ll keep on the sweats, roll out of bed and grab my laptop. I’ll start my conference calls and no one I’m talking to will have any idea that I haven’t changed my underwear yet that day. No one would have to know.

For now, that just doesn’t feel right. For now, I’ll continue to work from home in a power suit, proving to myself that I’m just as much of a professional as I was in my office.

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    • Al

      Good article. Here’s a great tool for working at home: http://preferredpublishers.go2cloud.org/SHGC

      Just don’t be a bumm :).

    • Charmaine

      Excellent post with many “home truths” being highlighted. I particularly like where you say – “my mind knows that it’s time to get to work.” When you work from home it is just too easy to forget where you are and “slop to work” but that is just where you make your first mistake!

      As a woman, if you are serious about the success of your work for women at home business then you need to approach it from a success point of view.

      Part of that attitude is to dress as though you are in fact going to work – even though it may only be a 20ft commute!

    • Chereen

      If your home biz is Internet Cooking, you might want the Iron Chef look.

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    • Lauren Still

      Great post and perspectives on the internal messages your personal dress and style send about what the day will bring. It is also an expression of yourself and your work brand, even if you’re not working in an office.

      When working from home, or in your own business, being clear on your personal brand and USP is particularly important because you don’t always have the external signals that people working in an office receive all day.

      As a career coach, I’ve teamed up with an image consultant to create a fun workshop that blends “dress for success” with designing your personal brand at work (http://substance-style.eventbrite.com). Your “internal message” comments will give me another facet to think about and another perspective to share. Thank you!