Yeah, I know it’s tempting to skimp on your wardrobe for your online job. After all, your computer isn’t going to whistle its approval or flutter its long eyelashes at you. You should just slip on your favorite jeans and T-shirt, right?
Not exactly. Here are a few reasons why you might reach for those black slacks instead.
Even at an Online Job, Your Clothes Affect Your Mood
During a survey, the University of Queensland asked around to see why people chose the clothes they wore. The results? Most people pick clothes to change their mood or give the impression of their desired mood.
It makes sense to me. If you get frustrated often, don’t wear a tight shirt. If you need a little pick-me-up, then wear your favorite color.
Psychology professor Robert Ridge understands how dressing up can influence your emotions. He says, “The more you like your appearance, the more confident you can be.”
If you squeeze into that dress that you think makes your hips look too wide, you’ll walk around the rest of the day trying to hide them. That’s not the goal.
You want to throw your head high and pounce from one meeting to the next. You want to exude intelligence and hard work, powering your way through a project. Your boss should schedule the next presentation and think, “He is the best person for this job.”
Vogue wrote on confidence dressing after interviewing several celebrities about their work clothes. Although different tricks worked for different celebrities, one thing seemed common. They used clothes to heighten their performance and improve their reputation.
Gabriela Palmieri, senior VP at Sotheby’s said, “A power outfit for me always begins with a great pair of heels.” And model Julia Frakes likes changing brands to fit her needs. She wears Prada for interviews and Marni for exams.
You might not have the budget for Prada, but the point is to dress well. If the best need to dress up for success, so should you!
You’ll Feel More Professional.
Now that we know clothes affect your mood, let’s take it a step further. Dressing up makes you feel more professional. Yes, even for an online job.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology reported a study in which people negotiated details with someone else. Some were allowed to wear their own clothes; some wore sweatpants; and others dressed up in suits. The people who dressed up always negotiated better deals than the ones who didn’t.
The suits just gave them confidence. Even more astounding was the fact that the men wearing sweatpants had lower testosterone levels, making them more docile. That means dressing down can have a negative impact on your work as well.
Professors from the Kellogg School of Management, Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adam, researched their idea of embodied cognition, or how people react to bodily feelings. They tested this idea by studying people’s ability to recognize the color of a word rather than the word itself. The test tricked people if the word read “blue” but the color was actually red.
The professors added a little twist to their research, though. They asked some of the subjects to wear a doctor’s lab coat, and they found that these people answered twice as many questions correctly as the others being tested. The mere idea that doctors pay attention to detail actually increased their own attention!
Galinsky and Adam also found that people did not perform as highly if they were told the lab coat was for an artist. While artists should pay attention to detail, their error does not have as much weight as would a doctor’s. People know this, and interestingly enough, it affects how well they themselves recognize details.
You’ll Look Like a Head Honcho
In the professional world, you can be tempted to only focus on how customers perceive you. If they can’t see you, you might think there’s no point in dressing up for work. Wrong.
What about your boss? Your customers are not the only ones to impress. Psychologist Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire suggests that dressing like your boss can lead to promotions.
“Bosses often appoint and promote people who are like them. Boards are renowned for electing members that resemble existing ones,” she says.
Daily Mail also affirms this phenomenon. They report that 68% of managers notice employees more if they have a similar style to them. Sound like favoritism?
Pine doesn’t think so. “Humans tend to be drawn to people who are like them, since difference can be perceived as threatening. People feel safer when they dress alike.”
Bosses also want someone they can trust. If you look like your mom had to pick out your outfit for work, they may doubt your abilities. Promoting someone who looks the part is not just a prejudice.
You’ll Be Jolly Friends With Your Coworkers.
Pine comments that dressing at the same level as your coworker suggests good teamwork. It shows connection with others around you and promotes solid collaboration.
But what if you don’t get along? You don’t have to twin, but dressing in your coworker’s style could improve your relationship. Maybe you’ll become best chums.
The British like this idea. Daily Mail reported a survey of two thousand people in Britain. About 61% said that dressing like their coworkers increased teamwork, making them more productive. Unless your coworker is the Steve Urkel of your office, it can’t hurt anything to try.
What Should You Wear to Work?
According to etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, dressing up doesn’t have to mean a suit and tie. CareerBuilder polled 552 business executives about their dress, and 57% said they wear business casual. Only 20% actually wear a suit.
Whew! You thought I was going to tell you to wear a long–sleeved button-up everyday, didn’t you?
Actually, Whitmore suggests wearing breathable clothes that don’t wrinkle easily. There’s nothing worse than heavy armpit stains and a crumpled shirt when you’re negotiating that pay raise or pitching a new idea.
You Can Still Have Personality
Professional doesn’t mean dull and lifeless. Whitmore loves tasteful fashion. She says, “Adding interesting accessories like jewelry, scarves, or ties creates a look that’s both professional and reflects your own individual style.”
In fact, she further advises workers to make sure they’re accessories aren’t shabby. You don’t want to devalue your look. A rusty watch or threadbare tie can really detract from an otherwise put–together outfit.
Abbi Gabasa, a former marketing manager, recognizes a worker’s need for creative flair. She recommends to “style using one unique accessory at a time, and keep the rest of your jewelry or apparel simple and sophisticated.” While work should be fun and exciting, using Gabasa’s rule may keep you from a serious fashion gag in front of your esteemed higher-ups.
Choose the Right Color
CareerBuilder’s poll showed black as an executive’s favorite choice. Navy is a close second, and gray comes in third.
Whitmore and Gabasa agree that these neutrals are great for work! They offer a good base for your rainbow scarf or punchy orange tie. Whitmore says they “travel well,” meaning that even if you go from your office in Kansas to a meeting in New York, you’ll still look the part.
For your accessories, you might consider some color psychology. Choose colors that bring out emotions you want to have during your day. You might pick red if you have a little negotiating to do and blue if you need to remain calm and collected while you research problems.
What if I Work Remotely, Should I Still Dress Up?
If you don’t go to an office everyday, you’re in the same boat I am. You stumble out of bed and want to get right to work. Pristinely ironing every shirt is not part of your morning routine.
Still, stop and think about what your tasks are for the day. You might talk to a boss or coworker via online conference call? Don your neutrals and freshen up your face a little.
If you don’t talk with others throughout your day, I still wouldn’t work in your PJs. Remember that feeling professional helps you get more done. I favor a trendy casual that I can easily spruce up with a black suit jacket or cardigan and some jewelry. That way I’m never caught off guard.
Dress a Step Above
Overall, you’ll have to feel your workplace out. You might not want to show up in a suit and tie if your boss always wears khakis, but you can still dress up. Instead of ripped pants and a sweaty T-shirt, wear a polo and your most classy pair of jeans.
You do have to use some common sense. Not every workplace is conducive to business neutrals. If you work in the fashion industry, you can probably get away with more colorful dresses and loud patterns.
Whatever the acceptable dress for your work environment, I recommend dressing a step above. As online workers, you’re probably not required to wear a suit. But you should seriously think about more than sweats and flip-flops if you plan to get anything valuable accomplished.
Curl your hair, add a classy watch or carry a sophisticated purse or wallet. Wear a button-up more often than your polo–dressing peers, and don’t underestimate a good lipstick. You might be surprised who researches the most problems next week or even gets the next promotion.
Sarah George is a flower–sniffing, homemade–cooking wordsmith who loves pounding out breathless stories until they fill with life. In her spare time, she loves designing her home with thrilling thrift finds and challenging herself with a good workout.