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Published: The Voice of Fashion, March 24, 2020

Remote working, often used by creative folks and freelancers, should have a defined code of dress conduct. Or perhaps not 

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The last thing you want to read is another COVID-19 story. While everyone who can is currently working from home, this is the journey of an independent writer and consultant, who often needs to be more productive than her full-time colleagues to ensure that people respect her efficiency, time-management and trust her dedication. If women still need to prove themselves in the workplace, women working from home need to flip over and do cartwheels while juggling and breathing fire.

Having run a tech startup in the US from a home office (2002-2005), and then the last decade partially working from home, rolling out of bed, showering and hitting the desk on days I am not walking out of the door has become routine for me.

The early 2000s were different: video conferencing hadn’t become mainstream and what you wore as you sat in front of your screen didn’t matter. You could paint your toenails while you were on a client call or eat a 12-inch sub, with sauce threatening to smear your face like a bad impression of the Joker. You could wear nothing, if that worked for you (it never did for me), or even your ratty PJs.

From the early days, I felt the power of routine and specificity. Even more so because I have always opted for a dedicated workstation over a lie-in-bed-with-a-laptop scenario. Perhaps today I may be considered old-school, but if you dress for it, your mind is automatically geared for it. The couch never beckons if your PJs are discarded first thing in the morning. Does that mean I would hop into a power suit? Unlikely. Crisp, freshly-laundered clothes, that are functional and comfortable, work for me. While I mostly wear dresses to work and meetings, separates like shorts, denim capris or anti-fit culottes and a tee or linen shirt generally become the go-to garments of choice when I am working from home. You feel ready, but without the bedhead or the stiff upper lip.

Zoom, the US-based video conferencing service (whose market value has sky-rocketed in recent COVID-times), has changed a lot of how we function. While being privy to endless video calls over the last couple of years, I have seen folks sport everything from PJs to formal attire. It doesn’t bother me what others wear — and I have had my share of bad hair days — but how you appear on a video call is more a function of vanity over productiveness. Have I given it a thought if I know I have a day filled with video calls? Sure. Do I make an extra effort to fix my look? Absolutely not.

And perhaps, even if it isn’t ideal, what you wear is intrinsically linked to how you feel — about yourself and your work. It is the subconscious codes we have gotten used to associating with workplaces and productivity. It is about who you are, how you wish to be perceived, and that inadvertently affects how you perform. I am not so easy-going that PJs can drive my work day, nor am I sufficiently driven by social codes to need formal attire and makeup to feel productive. I fall somewhere in the middle — a space of easy comfort and a freshly-scrubbed face that allows you to open your eyes and mind, and begin a new day.

WFH (work from home) Journal on The Voice of Fashion is a series of personal, reflective stories on what it means to work from home, and the importance—or lack of it—of dressing up for it.