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Does Dressing Down Diminish Productivity?

Ashley Kim
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Published on June 22, 2015

It may seem like a luxury to work in a casual setting where dressing down is the norm, or maybe even required. Who wouldn’t choose a comfortable pair of jeans over an itchy tweed skirt or stuffy suit pants? But are we sacrificing productivity for comfort?

Research done by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky seems to suggest that this may be the case. In their study, they found that participants wearing a doctor’s coat performed better on tasks designed to test their attention versus when they were not wearing a doctor’s coat, or were told that the coat they were wearing was a painter’s coat. Adam and Galinsky call this “enclothed cognition” and suggest that what we wear affects how we think.

So what could this mean for workplace wear?

In offices where causal wear is king, or for those who work from home or in more creative spaces, the lack of distinction between work clothes and relaxing clothes may be taking a toll on both your work productivity and ability to wind down after a long day at work. Without the clothing distinction to signal when you are on or off the clock, it may be harder to focus at work.

What can be done to boost workplace productivity?

If you work in a setting where you are required to dress down, there are a few things you can do to differentiate between your work wear and out of office attire. First, buy clothes that are work-specific that you will only wear in the office and not on the weekends. It will help you identify what you are wearing as “getting down to business” attire.

Second, once you get home, change out of your work clothes and into your home clothes. It might feel kind of silly changing out casual clothes into other casual clothes, but the physical act of getting out of your office wear will signal that the work day is over so that you can enjoy your relaxation time.

Lastly, even if you don’t normally care about what you wear, make sure to pick out a work outfit that makes you feel good and confident. Even if it’s just a color you think looks great on you, or a shirt that fits you particularly well, it is important to make even a small effort in choosing your work outfit. It will help you feel better about how you look and putting in a conscious effort into your ensemble will help you identify what you’re wearing with work time.

Ashley Kim

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