Working from home in pyjamas may sound like the dream, but is it really the best approach when it comes to our productivity and mental health? We asked an expert to explain the psychology of getting dressed – and why routine really is so important at the moment.
Working from home has become the new normal for many office workers up and down the UK. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country is now settling into its second week of lockdown – and that means many of us are just starting to establish a working from home routine.
If you’ve never done it before, working from home can seem a rather novel concept. The idea of spending our days working from the sofa, drinking endless cups of tea and singing-out-loud whenever we feel like it sounds pretty great. And that’s not including the biggest luxury: wearing pyjamas all day long (and putting a jumper over the top for conference calls).
But is this really the right plan of action? Sure, staying in your PJs for one or two days while working from home is probably fine – but when we face the prospect of working from home for at least a couple of months, shirking the responsibility of getting dressed could actually have a negative impact on our productivity, sleep patterns and, perhaps most significantly, our mental health.
Can getting dressed boost your productivity?
“For those who are new to working from home, there is certainly an art to being able to remain focussed and productive in a space which is inextricably linked with comfort and relaxation,” explains Charlotte Armitage, a media and business psychologist at YAFTA. “The key to ensuring a level of productivity in the home is to create a routine and structure that you force yourself to stick to.”
With this in mind, Armitage suggests that getting dressed into some designated “working” clothes could be a great way to ensure you’re able to do your job as you normally would in the office.
“One of the easiest and simplest parts of a routine to implement is ensuring that you change out of your PJs and into different clothes for working in,” she says. “When the routine of getting changed into new clothes for working at home is practiced enough, psychologically you become conditioned to associate the changing of clothes with a change of mindset, psychological pace and focus, therefore preparing you for the working day ahead.”
Is getting dressed good for our mental health, too?
There’s also the wellbeing aspect of all this to consider. It’s all well and good dreaming about spending our days with our legs up on the sofa as we type away on our laptops, but in reality, that lack of movement – and isolation – isn’t very good for our mental health. One way we can counter this is, Armitage explains, is by getting out of our PJs and establishing that aforementioned routine.
“Routine is important for maintaining our mental health and getting dressed is an important part of that routine,” she says.
“The idea of staying in PJs all day has some negative connotations associated with it and therefore if we behave that way, we can start to feel lazy and demotivated which in turn leads to a lack of productivity and low activity levels, and consequently starts to create a negative vicious cycle.”
Is dressing in comfortable clothes OK?
Staying in our PJs may not be the ideal situation – but that doesn’t mean we can’t make sure we’re feeling comfy. One of the luxuries of working from home is that we really can wear whatever we want – so “getting dressed” doesn’t have to mean adhering to workplace dress codes. In fact, being comfortable can also be great news for our productivity.
“Our clothes undeniably impact our productivity, but not necessarily in the way that you would imagine,” Armitage explains.
“When working from home, we have the freedom to wear far more comfortable clothing. When our subconscious thoughts aren’t distracted by being aware of how tight our trousers are or how uncomfortable our shirt is, it creates mental space to fully focus on the tasks in hand, thereby increasing cognitive productivity.”
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There’s no denying that now is a difficult time for everyone – so it’s important to take care of yourself. If you need a few days in your PJs to recuperate and come to terms with everything that’s going on in the world, that’s completely OK – but taking the time to get dressed and establish a “proper” working from home routine may be more beneficial than you think.
Images: Kaboom Pics/Unsplash