Remotely Interesting

Can You Be Productive While Working in Pajamas?

published5 months ago
5 min read

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We've all heard it before. According to many, you cannot be a productive worker at home unless you get dressed. Also, it can't be in just any comfortable attire either. They say you must dress as if you were going to the office, with some even going as far to say that you even need to put on work shoes. But why? Do business professional clothes and dirtying the house by wearing shoes inside give us some magical power to focus and get things done? Of course not. Let's take a walk through why so many people share this advice, why it is a myth, and how to work around it.

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Paper airplanes flying in the same direction with one taking its own path


When I first started working remotely, I continued wearing business professional clothing from my previous in-person corporate position. It wasn't working. Half my mind was on my code, but the other half was on my uncomfortable waistband or my shirt being scratchy or not sitting in the position I wanted to because the clothes were so stiff. Beyond being a distraction, getting dressed wasn't putting me into the focused mindset that everyone promised anyways.

There are two parts to how this myth became so prominent. First, humans require transitions. None of us can go from being dead asleep to at full attention knocking out a spreadsheet. We need time to wake up and tell our brain, "Hey, we're focusing on this now." When working in a typical office environment, people tie this transition to getting ready in the morning and commuting to work. When a person starts working from home instead, they throw this ingrained transition out of whack. The commute is off the table now, so they cling to the familiar option of getting dressed.

The second part of this myth is the belief that how you dress defines what you are. We've all heard the sayings: "dress for the job you want, not the job you have" and "dress for success." You show respect for the position you hold by how you dress. People are so used to being judged by others and society that they have ingrained in themselves that their job-worth is somehow tied to what they're wearing. But clothes themselves have never influenced action. Working remotely means that you are no longer in an environment where people can see your clothes. Therefore, continuing the same action (that may have worked in your previous work environment) will not have the same effect.

The people who lecture on wearing work attire while at home are thinking on a superficial level. They assume that:

  1. You had this routine in the first place
  2. That uncomfortable clothes don't hinder your performance

In my case, the transition that I had formed a "sleep-to-work" mindset habit around was only half there. So I needed to ingrain a new transition habit and decide if getting dressed in workwear would be a part of it.

Everyone needs to be proactive about creating a mindset shift when transitioning to work from home. Think critically about the habits that are automatic to you at this point in your career. Ask yourself:

  • Why did I start this habit in the first place?
  • Is it still providing the same benefits as it did when I wasn't working remotely?
  • Is there any tweak or full-on change I can make to bring those old benefits back or create new, better benefits?

When I dove into the questions above many years ago, these were my answers:

  • I started this habit because my previous positions required a formal dress code.
  • The previous benefits were that I was following workplace rules and received respect from colleagues. Since I now work from home and only my face can be seen on sporadic video calls, no one can see or judge what I wear except for me. Plus, the workspace rules are no longer there. This routine is no longer providing the same benefits.
  • Since this routine is no longer serving me, I will create a new transition routine that centers around more positive, helpful habits than wearing professional clothing. Also, in the future, I will wear more comfortable attire so that my clothes are distraction-free.

And that's it! These simple three questions can help you think critically on whether you're doing something out of habit or you're doing something because it serves you. This article is not to say getting dressed for work is terrible. It's also not saying that working in your pajamas is awful. It's just saying not to continue doing something because the media scolds you into it or because you've done it that way for years. Make sure you're living the best life for yourself.



Are old habits serving you? Ask:

  1. Why did I originally start this habit?
  2. Is it still providing the same benefits as it did when I wasn’t working remotely?
  3. Is there any tweak I can make to bring those old benefits back or create new, better benefits?

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Quote of the Week

"Organizations right now are ready for a change...

So let's not miss this opportunity to hit the reset button on practices and processes that were broken to begin with.

And, for heaven's sake, let's not replicate these broken processes in the digital world."​
Kate Lister at the REMOTE by GitLab event


In Other News


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