Your Professional Image & Motivation: Are They Connected?

career mindset travel/wardrobe Oct 30, 2020
woman trying on clothes

The global pandemic has sparked a new age of remote work for thousands of office goers, allowing many women to trade their heels for slippers. But what happens when comfortable clothes end up impacting productivity? And furthermore, do they impact productivity in the first place?

Slipping into a funk while working remotely every day is not a new side effect because of the pandemic. However, there are more than enough online resources to tap into that offer advice on staying focussed. One of the more niche topics that has emerged from this time is the notion that professional dress can impact your motivation during the work day.

If you’ve been practicing different productivity techniques while working from home to no avail, it might be time to turn to a less obvious reason you could be getting less done during the day: your clothes.

Enclothed Cognition

The study of how your clothes can impact certain moods has been tested many times before. In fact, I wrote about it in my book, Your Clothes Speak: Understanding and Using the Powerful Language of Your Personal Style.

The term describing this concept, known as “enclothed cognition”, was first coined by Hajo Adam and Adam D. Galinsky. At first, the study began with a lab coat. This excerpt from their findings on science direct states:

“In Experiment 1, physically wearing a lab coat increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat. In Experiments 2 and 3, wearing a lab coat described as a doctor's coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing a lab coat described as a painter's coat, and compared to simply seeing or even identifying with a lab coat described as a doctor's coat.”

 These findings clearly support the idea that your perception or thoughts towards a specific item of clothing can impact your mood while wearing it. For example, everyone has that one little black dress or perfect pair of heels that make them feel more confident, and why is that? Chances are, because you purchased such items with confidence in mind.

The fact of the matter is, most of us purchase sweatpants for comfort for the same reason we buy leggings for a work out, moods are tied to specific clothing styles. If you’re hoping to use these findings to your advantage while working from home to increase motivation and productivity, start by asking yourself two simple questions:

1. What do I wear to “work” everyday, and

2. How do I want to feel during work?

What do you wear to work?

Choose an upcoming work week to monitor what you wear every day. Write down everything from your underwear to your hair accessories making sure not to leave anything out. Ask yourself when you wake up in the morning what kind of clothes you find yourself gravitating towards, and try not to shift from what you usually wear week to week during this experiment.

Do you choose your outfit based on what you used to wear to the office or based on your energy level in the morning? Are you more business on top and comfy on bottom when you pick out your clothes? Identifying these patterns will help you determine what items of clothing you need to wear to be successful.

Finally, choose a specific time each day during your week of documentation to describe how you’re feeling in that particular outfit. Try to find new adjectives to describe your mood each day. In other words, don’t just say “comfortable”, try “at-ease” or “focussed” or even “powerful”; it’s important to truly take the time to find a word that fully encompasses your mood that day.

How do you want to feel?

Once you’ve outlined what your week looks like from a clothing perspective, the next step is to determine how you want to feel moving forward. Most individuals who are working from home have prioritized comfort in what they wear, and there truly is nothing wrong with that!  It’s more than possible that the feelings you associate with your clothing have changed over the last few months.

On days where your outfit was more loose and comfy, what was your mood and productivity like? While your brain might say that a blazer and dress pants screams productivity, these clothes can end up doing nothing for your motivation if you haven’t worn them for work in a long time.

If your work clothes have now shifted to being more casual instead of business casual, don’t feel the need to totally change up what you’ve been wearing from the beginning. Look at the days you found yourself most productive and lean into them by looking for similarities.

Clothing & Style Tips

If you found that a week of mapping out the way your clothes made you feel wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped, try checking your closet for these perfect work from home go-tos:

Comfortable Basics: No matter what styles you find to be the most motivational, you should still put on at least one item that keeps you feeling at ease. Having pieces in your closet that are sure to keep you calm throughout the day is an absolute must. Try building your outfit from the ground up by starting with ultra-soft underwear and going from there. Having soft underwear on under your professional slacks or skirts will help you to focus better during the day, while still looking professional. These comfort basics will no doubt help you to maintain a sense of coziness, without feeling like you’re in your pajamas.

Relaxed Footwear: Whether you’re a no shoes inside person or not, making sure your feet are warm throughout the day is a must. Pick out your favorite pair of fuzzy socks, or look for some fur-lined loafers to stylishly replace your granny slippers if you have yet to do so. Even if you aren’t standing all day, it’s still important to take care of your feet and ensure what you have on each day isn’t causing more harm than good.

Something Seasonal: Sometimes wearing something seasonal or even sipping your coffee out of a fall inspired mug can boost your mood without you even knowing it. If you’re a sucker for seasonal styles and colors, be sure to embrace that side of yourself by buying a fun new pair of holiday earrings, or by breaking out your favorite orange/brown colored hair clips. Getting into the fall spirit can be a much bigger motivator than you’d think, so don’t count this idea out.

Empowering Tops: Finally, look for options you have in your wardrobe that you find empowering. Choosing a top that encourages the emotion of self confidence is perhaps the most powerful motivator one can embrace. Whether it’s a “get out and vote” t-shirt, or a sweater that holds special meaning in your life, these items of clothing are the ones you should without a doubt be wearing to work.

Need help mastering the interplay between what you wear and being inspired to reach new heights, let's connect!



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