I read a lot about “pajama workers” or people who, because they work from home, decide not to wear pants. While there’s probably some truth to working that way, I strongly discourage it as a habit or lifestyle.
Aside from the fact that I’m an uptight, middle-aged white guy, there’s simply my belief that taking care of your grooming and appearance at home helps you take yourself seriously as a professional. This does not mean I’m in a jacket and tie while sitting in my home office. I’ve stated on this blog more than once that my preferred work clothing consists of blue jeans, a Hawaiian shirt, and gym shoes. I have the better clothes in the closet when I need them, but those are the clothing items that make me comfortable. Still, there can be a danger of becoming too casual in your home-office environment. Just because every day is casual Friday at home doesn’t mean your clients work that way. There’s still a big, buttoned-down work world out there.
Low-key wardrobe aside, I still get dressed, shower, shave, comb my hair, and brush my teeth just as I would as if I were going to an office outside my home. I probably started this behavior in high school after reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, of all things. Slaughterhouse-Five, if you haven’t read it, is Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical novel about his experiences in World War II as a prisoner of war during the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. In one scene, he describes a British officer addressing a group of American P.O.W.s:
What the Englishman said about survival was this: “If you stop taking pride in your appearance, you will very soon die.” He said that he had seen several men die in the following way: “They ceased to stand up straight, then ceased to shave or wash, then ceased to get out of bed, then ceased to talk, then died. There is this much to be said for it: it is evidently a very easy and painless way to go.” So it goes.
The Englishman said that he, when captured, had made and kept the following vows to himself: To brush his teeth twice a day, to shave once a day, to wash his face and hands before every meal and after going to the latrine, to polish his shoes once a day, to exercise for at least a half an hour each morning and then move his bowels, and to look into a mirror frequently, frankly evaluating his appearance, particularly with respect to his posture.
Now of course I don’t think of working from home as the equivalent of being in a P.OW. camp, though I might have thought about high school that way. But even so, this very English attitude toward self-care struck a chord with me. If you’ve got no reason to take care of yourself, you might not. If I don’t shower one day, odds are good that I’m not going to do much else constructive that day, either, but that’s just me. In a similar fashion, I know I’ve let things in my home get slack when the clutter builds up and I have trouble finding things. That’s a sign I need to take a shot at cleaning the apartment.
Your level of comfort with grooming or household cleaning could vary. You might get dressed but still prefer to wear the fuzzy bunny slippers while working. You might be able to find your notes in an environment of clutter. I get that. But even if that is the case, I think it’s important to at least keep your body clean when working from home under the assumption that you should be ready to speak with or face other people while you’re working. It’s better for you…and them.