Working in corporate, you feel you wear three different personas; one as a professional, sharp-dressed, on-top-of-it-all, knowledgeable, smile-when-I-don’t-feel-like-it worker, pleasing employers and clients alike. Another is the you outside of work, maybe on the train home, singing in the car or down the street with the possibility of seeing someone you know; not quite your true self, but able to choose what to wear, what to say, who to talk to. Then there is the PJ-wearing, feet-up, laying on the couch you, who can say and do anything without fear of recrimination or risk of damage to reputation or a big fat cross on your performance appraisal at the end of the year.
What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could be you all the time? Do you think you would be more productive, less stressed, less distracted if your dress code was relaxed and some unnecessary pleasantries were dropped from your vocab, without disrespect of course?
I used to work in the office of a factory and to comply with safety regulations I had to wear safety shoes. I also had to wear a skirt, extremely uncomfortable while climbing stairs to reach mezzanines and do any manual work, which was required from time to time. To remain less of a fashion failure, I chose shoes which didn’t resemble a steel-capped boot. They were similar to a chef’s shoe and had an aluminium capped toe, but gosh they were uncomfortable. While at my desk I could slip them off my stockinged feet, also terribly hot and uncomfortable in a hot factory in sunny Queensland, but outside of the office, they had to remain on.
I did not want to be at work. I was distracted by sometimes pain, but always discomfort. I worked long hours while I could not wait to get home and change. I do not believe I did my best work during this time.
After some time, I plucked up the courage to challenge the skirt issue. I was victorious in this and because as I could now wear pants, the shoe selection expanded. I could now wear boots or anything comfortably similar as they were now hidden by the pant leg, as long as they had a nice firm toe. If anyone had paid enough attention at the time, they may have witnessed a western boot hugging my foot. I was suddenly comfortable at work and it changed everything.
I’ve also worked in a call centre. We were never seen by members of the public but were required to wear smart-casual clothing, five days a week. Many of us were uncomfortable wearing clothes we did not want to be wearing, simply to satisfy a possibly outdated belief that you must be dressed appropriately to feel the part. I didn’t feel the part. I didn’t feel professional. I felt uncomfortable.
There may very well be substance to this ‘feel the part’ belief but being self-employed and having the luxury of working from home, it is extremely likely I would be seen in gym clothes a majority of the time and early mornings, when I have the office to myself, I may also be witnessed wearing some very comfortable pyjamas.
My point is, I work better for you when I am me. Looking back, I was existing as three different people. I put on my work face to go to work, my public face when I was out and about and then my relaxed home face. Thanks to my current working-from-home circumstances I now only am one person and I now work at 200%, no matter what I’m doing or wearing, until I choose to do otherwise. I learn better this way, share better experiences and engagements with people and I work better for you, simply because I am me.