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Do You “Dress up” for Telework? A surprising connection with productivity

If you were teleworking, with no online meetings and nobody to see you from morning till night, what would you wear? Would you get "dressed up" in a suit or jacket?

Does appearance really matter?

Translation is mostly done online, and so our company has been teleworking since the beginning. Our localization team has ten people wearing ten different colors. During video conferences, some members wear shirts and ties, while others work in their sportswear.

An apparel brand asked 822 women about what they wear while teleworking, and according to their survey, 40% wear clothes suitable for meetings from first thing in the morning, while 32% change just before a meeting. About half of respondents also said that for online meetings, they only dress up their top halves, indicating that many women working from home consider how others might feel.

Now, let’s try and find an answer to our earlier question.

When you think about clothes you can change into which are never to be seen by anyone, pajamas probably come to mind.

Wacoal (2012) surveyed 1,029 men and women aged 20-40 from across Japan about the clothes they wear to bed. According to their study, 60% wear shorts and a t-shirt in summer, while 22.7% answered pajamas. Compared to my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, it personally feels like fewer and fewer people are changing into clothes made specifically for sleeping, such as pajamas or yukatas.

Interestingly, there’s data that shows those who do wear pajamas get to sleep faster and wake up less during the night.

Pajamas not only help with sweating and rolling over while we sleep, but there’s also another reason—when we wear pajamas, we switch into “sleep mode”, drawing a line between the time we are awake and when we sleep. In other words, changing into pajamas is a sort of ritual for falling asleep.

Get dressed and get your brain ready

A theory proposed by psychologist James Lange is based on the point of view that, “People don't cry because they feel sad. Rather, people feel sad because they cry.” It is typically thought that external stimuli evoke emotions which in turn trigger some sort of physical response. However, contrary to this, Lange believes that we adjust our emotions to suit our physical responses.

If his theory is correct, then it makes sense to put our pajamas on before bed and get dressed before work. In order to adjust your emotions, you just have to take the appropriate actions for the direction you want to go in. Our brains are often said to be simpler than we think, and our emotions align with our outfits.

There are also those who probably think it’s too much trouble to wear pajamas or get dressed up, and that it’s fine to wear loungewear regardless of what time of day it is. It’s true that this may appear to save time and energy. However, from a psychological point of view, this gives us no distinction between the times we should be awake and when we should relax, and so we end up constantly idling around. As such, whether it’s work or rest, everything becomes half-hearted.

Telework has allowed us to regain more time and energy than ever before. Whether you start the day by getting properly dressed for work or not, incorporating rituals and routines into your daily life is a great way to create your own rhythms and habits.

If you’ve been wearing your slacks, then as an example, it might be a good idea to start wearing a shirt every Monday and Wednesday. Why not come up with some daily or weekly rules that can help you be more productive and spend your time more efficiently while working from home?


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Born in Japan and moved to China in 2008. After studying the Chinese language in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Kawai deepened his learning in Hunan and Jiangsu provinces through close interaction with locals. Currently staying in Ghana and making his endeavor to English and local Twi languages.

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