This month marks the one-year anniversary of the 21st century’s first ever world-wide pandemic. Not since the cholera infections in the late 1900’s and the influenza outbreaks of the 1920s have Americans been ordered to quarantine on any large scales. With international travel becoming as easy as it has, the current pandemic has become a problem for the entire planet, and so worldwide populations have been forced to remain at home away from the offices and storefronts that allow livings to be made.
However, unlike our ancestors, whose livelihoods were greatly impacted by a breadwinner’s inability to leave the home, todays advancements in technology have allowed many of us to work from home. Even retailers and small business owners have been using the power of the internet to engage consumers and keep up the cash flowing so that families can stay afloat. Many find the prospect of working from home to be way less stressful than a lengthy commute and interaction with difficult work colleagues.
Unfortunately, some have taken this unfortunate series of events and created an opportunity to fall on some bad habits that not only look unprofessional- but can stymie productivity when working away from the office.
Establish a new routine based on the old model.
Studies have shown that maintaining a routine similar to the one adhered to when commuting to work assists individuals in differentiating between home life and work life. Nobody is suggesting that you do not use that extra time saved on travelling to work to catch a few extra winks of shut eye. The extra sleep can help you focus and have energy for the rest of workday. Just give yourself enough time to have your breakfast and hit the showers before sitting down at the computer. Be as present as you would be sitting in an office, surrounded by workmates and management,
Always appear clean and tidy.
When you do get ready for work, follow the same grooming and hygiene regimen that you always have—assume you will be seen, because employers have every right to pop in via Zoom or Microsoft Teams whenever they want throughout the day. If you want the people that pay you to see you as hardworking and dedicated, being cleanly shaven and neatly quaffed is the very least you can do to enforce that impression. Some folks have been growing fanciful beards and facial hair during this time and/or dying their hair non-traditional colors like pink and green—which is all well and good if you work in an artistic field or if you will have no facetime with important clients. This is not just a matter of personal expression though, as you are still being paid to be respectful of your employer’s vision. If you have any doubts before getting experimental with your look, ask your boss what they would feel comfortable with. Remember, you still represent the business even though you are working from home.
Keep up with the dress code.
One thing usually established during a new employee’s introduction into a company or business is dress code. This should be considered when adapting a “uniform” for working from home. Some offices are suit and tie, strictly business attire, and so from home-particularly if you can expect to have teleconferences with clients and contractors-you will find it beneficial to at the very least adorn yourself in a pressed dress shirt or blouse, with ta suit jacket and tie available to throw on at a moment’s notice. Some industries are far more formal than others, but even when the code is business casual or even totally laid back, you should always show your very best version of that to the people you work with and anyone else in the course of doing business. If that business is a skateboard company, and you can wear jeans and printed t-shirts, those items should be free of stains and wrinkles, and those t-shirts absent of anything that might be considered offensive.
Dress for the occasion.
So, you work for a company that is super casual on a day-to-day basis. Lucky you, you can spend most workdays in comfortable bottoms and cozy tops! Does this mean you can’t kick it up a notch when you are meeting new clients or confronting difficult vendors? Of course not! In fact, taking a minute to put some thought into the intentions you want to broadcast across to those who lay eyes on you is just good sense. Just as you would wear a power suit to work on a day when you are trying to woo new business, you will want to experiment on outfits that make you look and feel confident and competent. It is always better to overdress a little bit than to underdress, as it shows you are serious about whatever your purpose is.
In the end, more of us will be working from home after the restrictions are lifted. Employers are wising up to the fact that money and time can be saved by having workers work remotely rather than travel any distance to report for duty. It is therefore even more important for those working from home to get used to the idea that home is just another worksite-and all must appear the part.