I often tell my husband how grateful I am that I can work from home a couple of days a week, when I am not traveling. One of the great benefits of working at home is that wardrobe choices can be a tad more casual. I am a morning person and I have some daily practices that I enjoy in order to help me be more present and grounded throughout the day. I make my coffee (usually half decaf, as I am trying to cut down on caffeine) with full-fat cream or coconut milk. I sometimes listen to an inspirational podcast, with my coffee, possibly a cat on my lap. I meditate for at least a few minutes, and right now I am trying to ramp up my practice to at least 30 minutes a day. After that, I usually spend 15-20 minutes on a hand-written journal entry.
Some mornings (like today) I can fit in a brief run of 2-3 miles, which really gets my synapses firing for the day. After that, a second cup of coffee – make it decaf this time – and then a shower before sitting down and starting the work day. When I work at home, the attire is typically jeans and a t-shirt, or a tech long-sleeve shirt if it is chilly.
In the summer, sometimes I have a casual dress I wear, made from super comfy t-shirt like material. Or if I really need to write before my shower, because I had an inspiring idea on my run, I sit and work in my robe and get the words out before my shower interrupts my thoughts.
Working at home gives me the luxury that I have time for all these preferred daily activities before I have to give myself over to my “real job” and all the attention it requires. On days when I go to the office, I need to leave time for picking out something to wear that is appropriate for a clinical research operations manager at a large medical device/health care services company. I have done some culling of my wardrobe in recent months after suffering far too much decision fatigue on making these choices in the morning, and having that indecision slow down my morning too much.
When I officially became a manager in my current role, I decided to upgrade my wardrobe, because I wanted to come across as confident and in-charge. I was called upon to speak more in big meetings, and I wanted to appear as someone to be respected, but also comfortable in her own appearance. Since I was under some stress that first year, I gained some weight and did not like how I looked in clothes that were too tight.
In previous posts, I have referred to my weight loss journey, but suffice to say that a 15+ pound weight loss helped me to feel more confident in a variety of clothes. But that led me to narrow down on which clothes really felt like “me,” which was another matter entirely.
I work with a team in Latin America and so I often travel to Miami and to cities likes where my colleagues and direct reports work. I have always admired the fashion sense of particularly my Latina colleagues, who always look sharp, but often seem utterly comfortable with their fashion and personal style. For me, this is not a natural instinct and has been an evolution.
I rejected the notion of style or fashion in college – liberal arts undergraduates at Swarthmore were comfortable in their t-shirts, flannels, jeans and Birkenstocks on campus, and I was no exception to that. The notion of standing out was never a goal to me, but I do not think I was truly comfortable in my own skin at that point in my life either.
More recently I have come to realize that our personality can be reflected in the types of choices we make in our clothing, and I now have a better sense of what styles reflect “me” versus some new trend. I hate shopping for grown-up clothes so much that I used Stitch Fix and MM LaFleur to send me selections that I could try and then send back the items that did not work.
While it was a somewhat expensive process, reflecting on what to keep and what to donate during my KonMari de-clutter this past Spring was a good way to recognize my own taste. Grown-up (work) clothes fit for a corporate setting have never really been my favorite, and this perhaps reflects my ambivalence about being in a corporate setting at all, but I now have a set of clothing that seems to fit more of who I have become.
When I get home from work, I typically change right out of my work clothes immediately. This comes from my Mom’s admonition to change out of our “school clothes” and into our “knock-around” clothes when we were young, to keep the nice clothes from getting dirty or worn out too soon. Also, having two cats at home pretty much guarantees that anything in black will pick up cat hair immediately when I sit down, so it just saves me time not to wear my work costume around.
When given a choice, I prefer to work at home, where I do not worry about selecting grown-up clothes versus my comfy jeans and tech shirts which feel more authentic to me. When I go to the office, I still feel a little like I’m playing “dress up,” something I seldom did as a child, because it was not my interest. That helps me feel a little more playful about the clothing choices rather than stifled by the culture of corporate fashion. But I am still evolving those choices, and I still dream of a time when I do not have a separate work wardrobe from my “in real life” wardrobe. That seems to me a supreme luxury and something I continue to seek.