Is Casual Dress Killing Your Productivity At Work?

“When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s ‘professional work attire’ or ‘relaxing weekend wear’, so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”

It’s the reason why we feel fitter in our sports clothes, or more professional in work wear, she adds.

Research shows your alertness is affected by what you wear. This study found that people wearing a doctor’s lab coat displayed heightened attention. When the same people then wore an identical coat, but told it was a painter’s coat, they weren’t as attentive as when they wore (what they perceived to be) the doctor’s coat. The research found: “The influence of clothes thus depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.”

Many companies, particularly in tech, insist on employees dressing down, to cultivate a casual work culture. For some workers, wearing the same type of clothes in and out of the office is troublesome. It becomes hard to distinguish between their “work” and “off work” selves.

What can you do to help you make that distinction?

“People can dress up in a way that still promotes their company’s culture and brand. You can take a creative approach to dressing in ‘work’ mode, even if you’re wearing jeans,” she says.

Wearing a dressier shirt with customized buttons or cufflinks is one way for men to dress up jeans. Women have a multitude of options – picking fancier shoes or accessories – for example. Experimenting with outfits that help you feel more focused is key.

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