Things are opening up again in many parts of the country, and many workers are being called back to the office. But for many, the world has changed – even if the dated office carpeting hasn’t.
Those who have been working from home for the past few months have had to learn to navigate a new normal: wearing “Zoom shirts” for online meetings, spending the rest of the day working in sweatpants, and carving out time and space to work amidst childcare duties. One thing many have learned is that formal workwear isn’t necessary to do our jobs well.
So will the old rules of professional dress become a thing of the past? Here are some thoughts about how to navigate the new dress code at work.
Take Cues from Your Boss
The old rule of thumb used to be “dress for the role you wish you had, not the role you have.” In these post-pandemic times, that advice might be a little dated – and the typical wardrobe for the role you “wish you had” may have changed.
However, it can’t hurt to look to the higher-ups for cues.
Depending on your workplace culture, your boss may try to re-impose old norms, or perhaps let things slide a bit. Keep an eye on what your immediate supervisor is doing, and try to dress along those lines.
Stick to Outfits that are Comfortable
Even if formal officewear is still the expectation at your office, there’s no reason you should be uncomfortable. And working in comfort doesn’t have to mean looking unprofessional or wearing sweatpants all day.
As you transition back to work, take the opportunity to audit your wardrobe and weed out uncomfortable clothes – blazers that are too tight in the shoulders, shoes that pinch, that skirt that looked great on the mannequin but never quite fit right.
When buying new things, keep an eye out for clothes that look good but are comfortable first and foremost. Shop for your body as it is now, not as it was pre-pandemic (many of us have seen changes in that area, as well). Cut yourself some slack and prioritize comfort.
Keep it Simple
One thing about working from home is that you don’t have to coordinate your outfits or put a lot of effort in. You may have found in quarantine that this benefited your performance, as you spent less time and energy on your appearance and more on your work.
You can keep that going in the office by adopting a new, simpler aesthetic – a simpler color palette of classic pieces that can be mixed and matched easily, without a lot of planning.
Adopting a simpler look (and skipping the bold colors and prints that take a lot of effort to coordinate) can help you keep up the habit of focusing on work rather than your wardrobe, while still looking stylish.
As people transition back to the office, there will be many new normals to navigate. If you’re dreading having to dress to impress again, keep the focus on comfort and simplicity – and hopefully you’ll be able to preserve a more comfortable, casual feel without sacrificing professionalism.